During my five years as a Senator I have raised a whole host of issues concerning disability including access to mental health services; access to pre-school and early education, etc.
I have focused on three key areas:
Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013;
Comprehensive Employment Strategy;
improving local disability services.
Equal opportunity in education and employment for all is a point I talk about every day with the government.
My son turned eighteen in October, which means he now leaves children’s disability services and goes into adult disability services. Like many parents, I fight for my child and work to see that he receives everything he needs. Change is never easy.
Since entering Seanad Éireann in 2011, I have committed myself to raising the concerns and highlighting the issues expressed by individuals and groups advocating on behalf of those with an intellectual disability and their families.
During my five years as a Senator I have raised a whole host of issues concerning disability including access to mental health services; access to pre-school and early education; transition from children’s services to adult services; residential care; respite care; continuity of care; advocacy services; appropriate funding and resources; equal employment opportunities; and not least of all upholding the respect and dignity of people with an intellectual disability within our legislation and in all settings and situations.
As Seanad Spokesperson for Disability and Equality, I have put in a focused effort on three key areas:
- Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013;
- Comprehensive Employment Strategy;
- improving local disability services.
The ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a long-standing issue often discussed in the area of disability. Over the last five years, I have worked to progress the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill, which is a major and complex piece of legislation that will assist in Ireland’s ratification of the convention. I was delighted to take part in the historic debate on the Bill in the Seanad in recent weeks. The Bill moves away from the archaic notions held in the past and finally brings forward words and actions that ensure equality and dignity.
The Bill will complete all stages prior to the dissolution of this Government and represents a major step forward.
Once the Bill is enacted our focus needs to shift to the swift and efficient implementation on the ground. We need to ensure that the legislation works not just in theory but also in practice. The monitoring of this legislation, once enacted, will be a significant priority for me and parallel to this, the early ratification of the UN Convention will be something I will continue to vigorously pursue.
Equal opportunity in education and employment for all citizens is a point I raise on a daily basis with Ministers and service providers, in the Education Committee and the Seanad. I worked in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Equality, service providers and representative groups in seeing the Comprehensive Employment Strategy introduced in early October 2015.
The barriers to meaningful education, training and employment for people with intellectual disabilities have been flagged for some time. The Comprehensive Employment Strategy sets real goals and targets to increase accessibility in the workforce and society overall. Now that the strategy has been launched, I am committed to continuing engagement with the Department and various stakeholders so that people with a disability see tangible results going forward.
At a local level, I am acutely aware of the difficulties which exist for people with an intellectual disability. My son turned eighteen in October, which means he now transitions out of the children’s disability services and into the local adult disability services. My son is no different now then he was the day before his eighteenth birthday. He still requires the same level of service received at seventeen years but it’s as though a switch has been flipped and everything is now different. Truthfully, as a parent of a child with an intellectual disability, I worry for his future.
Like many parents, I fight for my child and work to see that he receives everything he needs. We need to ensure that the transition from children’s services to adult services is seamless – not a fight. This transition will always be somewhat difficult as change is never easy.
In my work as Seanad Spokesperson for Disability and Equality I have been working locally and with the Minister, to see that this transition is as easy as it can be and that a path and plan are in place for each individual long before the significant eighteenth birthday is celebrated.
Similarly, I have worked continuously to ensure that children with additional needs receive equal access to pre-school and early school education.
My work in these areas is ongoing and foremost in my mind. While change is often not easy, however, since entering politics I have learnt that unfortunately it is often slow also. I am willing and ready to pursue improvements in the lives of people with a disability, and to continually keep striving for improvements in every aspect of their lives. As a candidate standing in the next General Election, I once again stand on the platform of advocating on behalf of people with a disability and their families.