Dáil Éireann - Volume 627 - 14 November, 2006

Written Answers. - Equal Opportunities Employment.

Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the criteria for persons with disabilities for seeking employment opportunities within his Department; the application procedures that apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37882/06]

  Mr. Martin: My Department, in common with other civil service Departments and offices, fully implements the Government’s policy on the employment of people with a disability.

The recruitment of staff to all Government Departments, including my Department, is undertaken by the Public Appointments Service. Provided the qualifying criteria for each particular competition are satisfied, persons with disabilities are eligible to compete in all such competitions. Every effort is made to ensure that the particular needs of staff with disabilities are met throughout the selection process.

Furthermore, independent research commissioned by the Department of Finance into the operation of the policy on the employment of people with disabilities in the civil service, and published as “Employment and Career Progression of people with a disability in the Irish Civil Service”, recommended, inter alia, that action be undertaken to recruit more people with a disability to the higher grades. On foot of the research findings, the Government decided to adopt a new approach to the recruitment of people with a disability into the Civil Service, which will include special competitions being held from time-to-time with the aim of ensuring that 3% of all recruits to the Civil Service are people with a disability.

In addition, my Department is currently participating in the Willing Able Mentoring (WAM) Project. The WAM project, which is administered by the Association of Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD), aims to provide graduates with disabilities placements of between three and six months with public and private sector employers. Persons claiming Occupational Injuries Benefit in cases of Pneumoconiosis are referred to Consultant Respiratory Physicians in the first instance for an examination and report. This examination consists of a clinical assessment and pulmonary function testing (PFT). Disablement benefit is awarded on the basis of the consultant’s report, including the pulmonary function test result. The degree of disablement is expressed as a percentage of loss of faculty and the compensation payable varies accordingly. Loss of faculty may be determined within a range of less than 1% to 100%, depending on the severity of the condition. There are 21 persons currently in receipt of disablement benefit as a result [923] of contracting pneumoconiosis arising from their occupation, the percentage of disablement assessed ranges from 8% to 90%. A person must be assessed as having a minimum of 20% loss of faculty before they may be considered as being incapable of work due to their disablement. There is no reason, medical or otherwise, to make special arrangements in the case of Pneumoconiosis and this includes making an ex-gratia payment.

While I have not met formally with interest groups representing miners who have acquired pneumoconiosis, I am fully aware of the issues as raised in these and other parliamentary questions which I have answered. I would be happy to meet with such interest groups in the future if they so wish to discuss this matter.