Dáil Éireann - Volume 547 - 31 January, 2002

Written Answers. - Proposed Legislation.

  40. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to introduce legis[982] lation guaranteeing education rights for people with disability of any age; and if a constitutional referendum is to be part of this legislative change. [31781/01]

  Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): Last December the Government approved my proposals for an Education (Disabilities) Bill. The Bill will provide clear statutory rights to access to, and benefit from, education for children and adults with disabilities. The Bill is being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government. It is my intention that it will be published as soon as possible with a view to early enactment.

  The Education (Disabilities) Bill will add to the significant body of law already enacted by this Government relating to the rights of people with disabilities to employment and to access to a wide range of services, including education. Legislation enacted in the past four years includes the Employment Equality Act, 1998, and the Equal Status Act, 2000. The latter in particular asserted the right of people with disabilities to education without fear of discrimination. The Government has also enacted the Education Act, 1998, and the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, both of which provide strong statements of principle in respect of the education of people with disabilities and provide meaningful protections to ensure access to education for such people. Most recently, my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform published the Disabilities Bill, 2001. To back up those legislative provisions, especially in the education context, the Government during its term has committed very substantial additional resources.

  The combination of detailed legislative provisions and significant additional resources is the best way to ensure that the rights of children and adults to education is provided for and guaranteed.