23 October 2003 Edition

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Government must support people with disabilities in Budget

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin spoke at the launch of the Disability Federation of Ireland's Pre-Budget Submission on Tuesday. He called on the Government to provide the necessary resources in Budget 2004 and to accompany this with rights-based disability legislation.

Speaking in Dublin's Mansion House to an audience representative of all the main disability groups in the country, Ó Caoláin said:

"I was very struck by one sentence in your submission - probably the most important - where you say: '...it is the absence of a rights-based approach towards the needs of people with disabilities, underpinned by legislation, which is causing such basic needs to go unmet'.

"At the root of the under-resourcing, the bad planning, the piecemeal approach and often the downright neglect of successive governments is the basic lack of understanding that this is about rights and equality as much as cents and euros.

"Whatever measures are introduced in Budget 2004 they must be accompanied by comprehensive, rights-based legislation. In answer to a Dáil Question from me a fortnight ago the Taoiseach again stated that he hoped and expected the Disability Bill to be published before Christmas. We await the Government's second-chance Disability Bill - and they had better get it right this time.

"We know what happened in Budget 2003. Progress was halted and some of the worst of the cuts affected people with disabilities.

"We should not tolerate as a people a situation where over half the households headed by a person with a disability or a long-term illness are living in relative income poverty. We should not tolerate a 70% rate of unemployment for people with disabilities.

"You have again identified the key issues, including the need for a Cost of Disability Payment Scheme, improved Disability Allowance and better community services.

"I know the importance of the Disabled Persons Housing Grant. I fully support your demand that the Government increase the Grant to 100% of the actual cost of approved building work on the basis of need."

An Phoblacht
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