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Funding People with Disabilities Ireland, National Women’s Council

Call to review disability sector

There were further echoes to the end of government funding for People with Disabilities Ireland (PwDI), covered in earlier bulletins.  In the Seanad, Martin Conway (FG, Galway E), reiterated that what was needed was an overall value-for-money audit of of the €1bn channelled to the disability sector (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 7th December 2011, 84).   He had discovered that 92% of resources provided to People with Disabilities Ireland was spent on administration.  His concern was that money was not being channelled to the end user: ‘we must not have ivory towers built on the backs of people with disabilities’.  The organizations deserving of state support were those which provided frontline services.  He asked for a debate on the funding of the sector to ensure that resources were spent wisely, prudently and efficiently.  He concluded:


‘ We must not have a situation where 80% to 90% of funding is spent on the wages of headquarters staff, administrative costs, travel expenses and so on.  That is what has been happening in the disability movement for the last 10 to 14 years.  

‘All organizations in receipt of substantial resources from the state in order to provide services and support to people with disabilities should be accountable to the Oireachtas for how they are spending that money and who is benefitting’.


Earlier, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice & Equality, Kathleen Lynch, told Jonathan O’Brien (SF, Cork NC) that she was now finalizing the value-for-money review of disability services and would chair a new national disability strategy implementation group (Dail Eireann, Debates, December 2011, 678-9). She published a table of funding for PwDI for the past five years, showing that it was unable to spend €1m of its allocation and she drew attention to earlier statements that inadvertently indicated that fees had been paid to board members, but this was not the case.  Jonathan O’Brien, though, asked for a breakdown of the funding and questioned whether the new disability strategy group would be the national body to represent people with disabilities, the original intention of the Commission on people with disabilities 15 years earlier.  The minister told him that she had met board members of PwDI to discuss how their voice could be heard and it was her intention that it be heard nationally through the disability stakeholders group.  She saw no reason why their voice could not be heard through partnership or LEADER programmes or local authorities, where decisions were made (later, she added health forums).  ‘We are considering such a structure.  I intend to invite more people with a particular view of disability to join the disability stakeholders group at national level within the Department of the Taoiseach’. 


Jonathan O’Brien asked what was the possibility of local PwDI getting funding.  Continuing in a volunteering capacity was simply not practical for all the groups.  Could they apply for funding from her department or the HSE?  She told him that funding was always open to them through the lottery or the HSE.  


Meantime, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, told the Dail that he had been able to maintain the funding of the Equality Authority, the Human Rights Commission and the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) (Dail Eireann, Debates, 13th December 2011, 693).  



Limited funding for advocacy work

Staying with funding issues, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, told the Dail that he was giving priority to organizations providing front-line services:


This means that there will be limited funding available for non-governmental organizations that are largely engaged in an advocacy role (Dail Eireann, Debates, 7th December 2011, 88). 


It was therefore with regret that he had no option but to reduce funding for the National Women’s Council and PwDI so that funding could be maintained, insofar as was possible, for bodies providing front-line services tackling complex and difficult issues such as domestic and sexual violence and to organizations providing assistance to victims of crime, such as Women’s Aid, AdVIC and Support after Homicide.  The National Women’s Council has now received considerable philanthropic funding and the reduced contribution from the department was sufficient to enable it to contribute on behalf of the women of Ireland to the programme of government activities that aim to achieve gender equality.  

> National Disability Strategy Implementation Group: Dail Eireann, Debates, 15th December 2011, 515.