Issue 61 contains a broad spectrum of topics with a focus on inclusion.The contributors have specifically looked at inclusion in education; examples from practice are described that advocate different views on the merit of inclusion. These are complemented by Eamonn McCauley’s perceptive analysis of some of the issues underlying the debate. Eamonn makes the point that the debate is only in its infancy in education and perhaps that is true also in the broader field where care, nursing, education, advocacy and self-determination come together. Clearly the current rather ambivalent approach to inclusion which is manifest in the approaches to care of some of the large service providers might benefit from a little re-examination. This is a topic to which Frontline will be returning in the future. Furthermore it is a subject on which we would welcome contributions from all interested stakeholders.
At the time or writing, the Disability Bill is once again causing controversy, Frieda Finlay’s article presents a rather grim view of the bill, examining the issues from the viewpoint of an informed service user’s advocate. Is there a chance for the bill to be substantially amended in order to take on board the concerns of the stakeholders? Has there been more than two-years of delay, only for the second bill to fall? How will the bill address the important balance between seriously meeting the needs of service users without bankrupting the country? These are questions that should be addressed urgently; this bill needs to vindicate the rights of service users in a meaningful way, anything less is not acceptable.
The Budget has come and gone and the increased allocation of 290 million euro for disability specific services is very welcome. Additionally the commitment to multi-annual funding, with a view to enabling the development of high-priority disability support services over the coming four years, is a goal sought by the disability sector for some considerable time, this will enable a phased development of new day, residential and respite services that can be planned on a national basis. With multi-annual funding, the building and commissioning of services it should be more possible to manage the supply side issues (do you mean supply of clients?? Or staffing and equipment?) in order to enable units to open (as soon as they are built?) when they are ready. This would mean that service users can benefit from the additional funding as soon as possible. It needs to be noted that, despite the cynicism of the public towards the body politic, in this case the Minister for Finance has proved his commitment. Let’s state this clearly–Well done Mr Cowen!
Substantial extra funding is one thing, but as Roy McConkey stated at the Centre for Learning Disabilities seminar in UCD (held on Budget Day 1 December), how it is spent is also a very important matter. How can service users obtain maximum benefit from these increased resources? This is where the National Standards for Disability Services come into play. At the time of writing they are still on the desk of the Minister for Health and Children; they need to be leave the Minister’s desk and implemented as soon and as vigorously as possible. The Standards are a mechanism to facilitate service organisations to raise the level of service they provide. This should take place forthwith. Roy McConkey referred to developments in Northern Ireland where the supported living movement is gaining momentum. This might be a model that we might also develop in the Republic—and for service providers to enable many more service users to obtain a higher quality of life in good-quality community settings. Let’s hope that the finance will now be there—and that the vision is there to utilise the finance as effectively as possible.