Dáil Éireann - Volume 664 - 16 October, 2008

Written Answers. - Services for People with Disabilities.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the implementation of the National Disability Strategy. [35230/08]

  Deputy Dermot Ahern: Since its launch in 2004, considerable progress has been made by my Department on the implementation of the National Disability Strategy, which underpins the participation of people with disabilities in Irish society by building on existing policy and legislation.

My Department is responsible for the provision of the framework for the implementation of the Strategy, including cross-Departmental co-ordination, and reports to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion on progress of the Strategy. The Strategy is now also the agreed focus of disability policy under the Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016, under which the National Disability Strategy Stakeholder Monitoring Group was established in November 2006 to monitor progress on the overall implementation of the Strategy. The Group comprises representatives of stakeholder groups, trade unions, senior officials and the National Disability Authority (NDA). My Department serves as Secretariat to the Group.

Towards 2016 contains a commitment to publish a strategic document on the Strategy which will outline the vision, mission and strategic objectives under the Strategy. The draft document has been prepared by my Department and forwarded to all of the relevant partners. It is due to be finalised later in the year and will be published as soon as possible after that.

[162] A new Office for Disability and Mental Health was established in January this year to support the Minister of State for Equality, Disability Issues and Mental Health at the Department of Health and Children. This new office has cross-cutting responsibilities in a number of Departments, including my Department.

Key elements of the National Disability Strategy continue to be the Disability Act 2005 and the Sectoral Plans of key Departments for service provision for people with disabilities. The National Disability Authority is also concerned with the implementation of important aspects of the Strategy and works closely with my Department to meet relevant objectives.

The accessibility provisions of the Disability Act are supported by the ‘Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information provided by Public Bodies’ which was published in July 2006. The Code of Practice was developed by the NDA in consultation with my Department and helps public bodies to make services and information accessible to people with disabilities and provides them with guidance on meeting their obligations under the Act. The NDA has developed and circulated a monitoring questionnaire to assist the evaluation of the implementation of this code by public bodies, and will report on the matter in due course.

The Act also gives statutory effect to the 3% employment target for people with disabilities in the public sector and my Department has a key role in relation to the implementation of these provisions. The Act provides for a framework for monitoring this target through monitoring committees in each Government Department and the NDA has an overall monitoring and reporting role under the Act. The first statutory report on the compliance by the public service with the employment target for people with disabilities was published on 4 January 2008, and the second report by the NDA which concerns compliance with the target in 2007 is due to be submitted to me by the end of November.

Again, under the Act, a Centre for Excellence in Universal Design has been established within the NDA with the support of my Department (2007). The Centre has an important role in contributing to the development and promotion of standards in universal design.