Cork South-West TD, Holly Cairns, today highlighted the serious challenges faced by people with disabilities during the pandemic and called on the Government to address their needs when it publishes its ‘Living With Covid’ strategy next week.

Speaking in the Dáil, Holly said:

“The past few months have been an incredibly challenging time for people with disabilities and their families. Underlying health concerns, the absence of day and respite services for months, a lack of therapeutic services and uncertainty about work are just some of the issues they have faced.

“The pandemic has highlighted the absence of a rights-based approach for people with disabilities as well as years of under-investment in social and health care services by the State. As too often happens in Ireland, family members and voluntary organisations have had to step in to fill the gap left by the Government’s shortcomings.

“There are an estimated 2,900 people with disabilities residing in larger settings of 10 or more people, along with 1,500 in nursing homes who are under-65. All of these people have been put at unnecessary risk by the State during the pandemic due to their living arrangements.

“Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guarantees the right to live independently in the community rather than in institutions. However, successive governments have failed to ensure the provision of this right.

“HIQA’s recent annual overview report on disability services in 2019 highlights both progress and issues in this sector. It identifies inappropriate living conditions; residents being at risk of abuse due to non-compliance with the basic requirements of safeguarding; and practices which restrict basic dignity of people, such as not being able to access their own money independently.

“The pandemic did not create these conditions; it has merely highlighted their impact.

“The re-opening of day services is another major issue for people with disabilities. Research carried out by Inclusion Ireland shows that the closure and restrictions of these services is having a significant impact.

“In terms of mental wellbeing, 38% of respondents indicated an increase in behaviours of concern; 36% indicated an increase in loneliness; and 33% reported an increase in anxiety for their family members.

“It is essential that the Government’s ‘Living with Covid’ strategy includes clear provision for the full re-opening of day services when it is announced next week.

“Finally, I urge the Government to immediately ratify the Optional Protocol in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This will provide formal mechanisms for persons with disabilities and advocacy groups to challenge the Government and hold those in authority to account.”

September 10, 2020

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