The recent fanfare about the review of the programme for government has dominated the media in recent days. We were told that animal rights were at the forefront of the Green Party agenda and it seems that concessions in this area were achieved and to be welcomed. But what about rights for people with disability....were these rights progressed or obstructed in the recent programme?
On p.19 'a commitment to improve income eligibility limits in the assessment for medical cards for children with intellectual disabilities.' Cautious welcome..lets see how many children access a medical card on foot of this recommendation.
On p.21 we are treated to a list of aspirational goals to prioritise and protect peolple with disability , including the newly formed group 'NDS Recession Implementation Plan'.
This plan very much sounds like it will oversee how cuts will be made in the disability sector , an An Bord Snip for the disability sector which will no doubt see service providers compete for scare resources.
p.22 Introduces the committment to hold a constitutional referendum on childrens rights. Again to be cautiously welcomed, however given this governments record on battling children with special needs in the courts to withhold what few rights are enshrined in the constitution , one can only be sceptical of this statement.
p.32 Commits to the implementation of the EPSEN Act but in the next sentence we are told that only 'priority aspects' of EPSEN will be implemented and we are not told what these priorities are. We are aslo told that 28 psychologists are to be recruited, again a measure to be welcommed as it will facilitate childrens special needs to be identified. However the PFG then goes on to state that assessment 'will trigger and automatic response'......code for the fact that SENO will review the report and SENO will make a decision what if any special education resources will be allocated.
Reassuringly we are also told that the HSE will continue to develop its therapy services for childre with disabilities in mainstream schools......tell that to the thousands of children waitlisted for vital help around the country. If the PFG wanted to achive this it would have committed to rolling out the Disability Act for children aged 5-12 years.
p.33 Deals with Higher Education Sector, there is an alarming absence of reference to the need for third level places for yound adults with intellectual disability. No mention of the fact that some of the 2009 school leaver group are still without placement or funding ( something which would not be tolerated if the were graduates of any other secondary school around the country)
And so it seems that people with disabilities and their advocates should be on alert , there are no protections for services for people with disabilities within this PFG, no commitments that the hundreds of people with disability living in institutional care will be offered any improvement in their conditions, none of the special classes for children with mild disabilities will be reinstated, no ringfencing of disability budgets that will stop the HSE from pillfering from the disability budget as it did in 2008 ( 15 million was taken from people with disability to shore up mismanagement of funds in other areas), no commitmeeent to extend the Disability Act to children over 5 years, no committment to fund services for people with disabilities in accordance with their assessed needs, no committment to stop the cuts in the numbers of special needs assistants which is ravaging the education system....and of course no rights.
The Greens may have succeeded in stopping the reintroduction of third level fees but it seems likely that education services for children with disability will be cut...are being cut, to help fund this concession.
If this PFG has a colour, i'd say its more yellow than green.