Congress and Disability Issues 

 Congress Disability Seminar November 2016 - see report here


by Justine Carnec


Photo by Justine CarnecLaunching Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities, Farmleigh, Oct 2. Photo by Justine Carnec

Enabling people with disabilities to access employment when they want to work is the aim of the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities.

The new strategy was launched by the government on October 2.

 According to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the object is “to ensure that any man or woman living with disability, and who wants to work, can do so.”

“The role of the government is to create a society [in which] no one feels left out”, Minister Frances Fitzgerald added, quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The new strategy was welcomed by Congress.

 “It is badly needed” said David Joyce, Congress Equality Officer.

 “Congress will work to ensure that the overall goal – to ensure people with disabilities can enter employment and enjoy rewarding careers - becomes a reality.”

 The target is to increase the employment rate for people with disabilities by 15pc from its 2011 level, which was less than 30pc, according to Eurostat.

“Too many people leave the labour market because of disabilities” Minister Joan Burton pointed out.

 According to Minister Frances Fitzgerald “people with disabilities are only half as likely to be in employment, as others of working age,” with Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin pointing out that “employment empowers people.”

 The strategy’s key priorities are: to build skills capacity and independence, to provide bridges and supports into work, to make work pay, to promote job retention and re-entry to work, to provide co-ordinated and seamless support, and to engage employers.

 Overall, the goal is to increase the employment rate for people with disabilities to 38pc by 2024.

 However, achievement of these goals will require sustained political commitment, adequate resources and effective implementation of the key priorities, Congress has pointed out. More here

Disability Seminar 2015

Decent Work for People with Disabilities - where to now? Follow us on Twitter #DWPWD15

Pics from the event on our FLICKR account

Employment Strategies for people with disabilities are being prepared in both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. This year's seminar is an update on both and will hear from both people with disabilities in employment and the companies employing them. You can read more here.

Congress Disability Seminar 2014

ICTU Disability SeanSean McGovern, Chair TUC DisabilityHeld in Derry, this year's theme was the contribution of the United Nations Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities. More here

Congress Disability Seminar 2013

Decent work for people with Disabilities - read about our 2013 seminar here.

Congress Disability Seminar 2012

ICTUDisability groupBrian O'Donnell, David Begg, Suzy Byrne, Berni McCrea and Darrag O Connor in back row Deirdre O'Connor, Michelle Gaynor and Aaron Abbey from the Leader's Alliance (Pic Barbara Lindberg NUJ member)About 40 trade union delegates along with representatives from disability groups gathered in Dublin Airport Clarion Hotel - a Fair Hotel (18/19 October 2012) to consider the impact of the economic crisis on people with disabilities and how they can build alliances to fight back.Michelle GaynorMichelle Gaynor, Leaders Alliance (Pic Barbara Lindberg, NUJ member)

Delegates heard from a wide range of speakers including Congress general Secretary, David Begg who said that a threshold of decency was needed to guide us through the economic crisis. Equality is about creating the conditions where everyone can lead a fulfilling life. People with disabilities face threats to this basic right with services – such as cuts to personal assistants – which empower people with disabilities to participate on an equal footing in society being cut and the quality of remaining services being hampered. More here

The NDA also hosted a conference on employing people with disabilities this year.




Congress Disability Seminar 2011

Disability seminar groupDelegates at Seminar April 2011 (Pic John Chaney)
Joe RoeCPSU delegate, Joe Roe at disability seminar April 2011 (Pic John Chaney)Congress annual disability seminar was held on 1st and 2nd Apri in Dublin Airport. 40 delegates
gathered to discuss the impact of the crisis on people with disabilities and how the trade union movement should respond. Among the speakers were:

Deirdre O Connor opened the seminar with some remarks about a recent European civil society conference on disability issues.

David Begg spoke about the seriousness of the economic crisis facing us and on the importance of ensuring that we do not lose focus on the fact that the economy should exist for society and not the obverse;

Eithne Fitzgerald of the NDA spoke about opportunities posed by the crisis in terms of how we approach disability issues in Ireland - more here;

Christy Lynch, CEO of KARE spoke about the challenges to his organisation in terms of providing relevant services for people with intellectual disabilities in such a difficult economic climate;

Paul Oakes of the Equality Commission spoke about the importance of mainstreaming equality and disability issues; Deirdre McNamee from the Public Health Agency (N.Irl) presented on the development of the Promoting Mental Health Strategy and Action Plan.

John Saunders from See Change also spoke about the impact of the crisis on mental health and on their latest Campaign - Make a Ripple - see more here.

INTO delegate and Disability Committee member, Maire Masterson, finished the seminar with a session giving stress management techniques to all.

Participants also worked in breakout sessions and brought back some recommendations for the consideration of the Disability Committees North and South.Disability Champions_4989_edited-1Disability Champions Graduates April 2011 with Peter McKevitt, Chairperson NDA (Pic John Chaney)Peter McKevitt, Chairperson of the NDA also attended and presented certificates to Disability Champions Graduates. There are now over 140 champions trained on the island. Congress appreciates the continued support of FAS for our work on disability champions.

 Congress Disability Seminar 2010

Deirdre O Connor, INTODeirdre O Connor, INTODavid Begg speaking at the SeminarDavid Begg speaking at the SeminarThe Congress Disability Seminar was held on the 23rd and 24th of April, in the Clarion Hotel Dublin Airport. The theme for the seminar was: ' Mental Health in the Workplace'. The seminar was attended by members of the disability committees from ICTU and NIC ICTU, Disability Champions, and lay activists.

The event was jointly chaired by Deirdre O'Connor and Berni McCrea. The Seminar was opened by Colm O Gorman, CEO of Amnesty International, and this was followed by a speech by Congress general Secretary David Begg. There were also presentations from Mary Van Leishout of the NDA on attitudes to mental health, Peter Purton from the TUC and Seamus Mac Alastiar from Spes.
On the 24th, there was presentations from Jane Clare, Disability Champions Officer and Paul Oakes, Equality Commission. The seminar was finished off by a workshop on developing a work plan on the area of mental health.


Beni McCrea, UNITEBeni McCrea, UNITE
The aim of the seminar was to raise awareness aabout mental health and illness issues in the workplace, and to start thinking about future campaigns in the area.

Congress has also now joined the See Change - the National Mental Health Stigma Reduction Partnership. The partnership is working positively to change attitudes and behaviour so that there is a reduction of stigma and discrimination associated with mental health problems and to ensure that everyone enjoys the same rights on an equal basis.

Congress is developing a code of practice in relation to mental health issues in the workplace. Click here to read the TUC's guidance for trade union reps on mental health issues.


Congress Disability Seminar, Belfast 2009.

Disability belfast sept 09Pauline Buchanan, John Corey, David Joyce, Renee Dempsey and Brian McKeeOver 60 trade unioists from across the whole island of Ireland gathered in Belfast (1/2 October 2009) to celebrate the work of the now 100 Disability Champions on the island. The graduation ceremony was presided over by Patricia McKeown (Past President of ICTU) and 14 of the latest champions graduated.

Disability Belfast 2Renee Dempsey (Equality Authority CEO) and Michelle Morris (Equality Commission)The seminar, funded by the Equality Commission, Concensus and Fas was opened by John Corey, followed by a drama piece by members of the Disability Committee. Pauline Buchanan welcomed delegates to Belfast and the seminar introduced by Berni McCrea and Deirdre O'Connor, joint Chairs of the Congress Disability Committee. There followed presentations by:

  • Michelle Morris, the Equality Commission, N.Irl;Powerpoint available here
  • Renee Dempsey, CEO of the Equality Authority;
  • Brian McKee, Barrister, - recent developments in disability legislation
  • Creative Exchange Arts Project
  • Jane Clare, Congress Disability Champions Officer
  • FAS presentation on supports available
  • Donal Lyons from the Human Rights Consortium

Drama in BelfastTrade Union drama group at disability seminar Disability Belfast 3Jane Clare, Patricia McKeown, David Joyce, Pauline Buchanan and Brian McKee








 Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act 2005

The review of the Sectoral plan is now available on the DETE website

Congress has written (July 09) to the DETE to seek the elaboration of the promised comprehensive employment strategy for people with disability in their sectoral plan review under the Disability Act 2005. Read submission

Congress 2006 submission in advance of the publication of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment's Sectoral Plan under the National Disability Strategy.

Department of Justice and Equality

The Department have published (2012) "Guidelines for Government Departments: How to conduct a Disability Impact Assessment". The Guidelines set out a step by step process for conducting a disability impact assessment, which fits within the broader regulatory impact assessment (RIA) framework.

The Cabinet Handbook, an internal Government guide to assist Ministers and officials in the preparation of matters, requires that all substantive Memoranda should indicate the impact on people with disabilities.

Inquriy into Sheltered Workshops?

Congress letter to the Equality Authority (2008) seeking an inquiry into possible discrimination against people in sheltered workshops.

A HSE working group has drawn up a policy paper New Directions. It is reported that this paper proposes a move away from the current system of centre-based, segregated services, and from sheltered work, towards a model which is focused on supports to participate in mainstream community activities (including supports to employment). The emphasis of the new model is on independence, choice, and inclusion. It envisages staff roles changing towards a model of support for inclusion. The report has not been formally published. FÁS are considering the implications in relation to their supports to employment of people with disabilities.
The HSE Service Plan 2011 suggests a 10% fall in the numbers in sheltered work as the proposals in the report are rolled out.

Congress Disability Champions

Disability Champions @ Work New Publication: Disability Champions at Work

Congress Disability Report 2001 - 2005: This report is an update on Congress activities in relation to people with disabilities from 2001 to 2005.

Workway a joint IBEC and ICTU initiative to promote the employment of people with disabilities in the private sector.

The Congress Disability Committees (NI & ROI).

National Disability Survey 2006 - Volume 2

This report (published by the CSO 28 Jan 2010), presents the detailed analyses of the situation of people with a disability in Ireland in the following nine areas: Caring and help from other persons; Attitudes of other people; Transport; Built environment accessibility; Education; Work and training; Social participation; Sport and exercise; and some general issues such as use of medication, health and smoking.Key findings from the report include:

-Around 56% of persons with a disability in private households received help with their everyday activities. The most common source of help was from family members who lived with the person - 42% of persons in private households who had a disability received such help.
--Difficulty getting on and off public transport vehicles was given by 16% of persons aged 5 & over in private households as a reason for not using or having difficulty using public transport. Difficulty transferring from one service to another was the next most cited reason (12%), while difficulty getting to the public transport was reported by 9%.
-Around one third (32%) of respondents aged 5 & over whose disability limited or affected them before they completed their full-time education indicated that they had stopped their education sooner than they intended because of their disability.

Rights and entitlements of people with disabilities

The Citizens Information Board have published an overview of public services and supports for people with disabilities in a number of areas; including social welfare and HSE payments, health services, training and employment supports and income tax. See here

Towards 2016 and Disability

Towards 2016 Strategic Document on the National Disability Strategy was noted by Government in their meeting of 19 May 2009. The Strategic Document has since been published to the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform website .

The National Disability Authority

The National Disability Authority (NDA) (Wednesday 10 March 2010) launched its Strategic Plan for the period 2010 to 2012. The primary context for NDA's Strategic Plan is the continued implementation of the National Disability Strategy. The principle of including people with disabilities in the mainstream of Irish society, and ending the provision of segregated services, is at the core of this Strategy. Each and every government department and public body has the responsibility of including people with disabilities in its mainstream services and remit. Gerry O'Hanlon, Director General CSO, gave a Keynote Speech at the launch, highlighting main findings of the National Disability Survey which included: Disability rates from Census and NDS; NDS findings on types of disability; and NDS findings on participation

The NDA is The National Disability Authority is the lead state agency on disability issues, providing independent expert advice to Government on policy and practice. Among the areas they work is the area of employment and training of people with disabilities.

Part 5 of the Disability Act 2005 ("the Act") sets out the obligations on public service bodies with regard to the employment of people with disabilities.

There are three interlinked requirements. Firstly, public bodies must, insofar as practicable, take all reasonable measures to promote and support the employment by them of people with disabilities. Secondly, public bodies shall ensure, unless there are good reasons to the contrary for not doing so, that at least 3% of their employees are people with disabilities. Finally, on an annual basis, public bodies must report to a statutory monitoring committee in their parent Department on the number of people with disabilities in their employment and the measures they are taking to support their employment. The monitoring committees in turn submit their reports on such compliance to the Minister of their parent Department and the National Disability Authority (NDA).

The headline results from 2008 report are:

55% of the organisations reported achieving or exceeding the statutory 3% employment target for 2008. In 2007, 51% of public bodies reported reaching or surpassing the statutory minimum target.
The total number of public service employees who declared a disability for 2008 totalled 6,083, an increase of 204 over the 2007 figure. At the same time, the number of employees in the public bodies reporting under the Act fell from 239,000 to just below 229,000 between the two years.
For the first time since the 3% target came into being on a statutory basis (31 December 2005) all 15 Government Departments have achieved or exceeded the target. Totalling the figures for all Government Departments, 3.9% of staff reported a disability for 2008 compared to 3.8% in 2007.
Local authorities have 3.5% of staff with disabilities.
There is a strong link between positive action measures, such as a disability policy or a Code of Practice, to support employment of people with disabilities and achievement of the 3% target.

Commission of the Status of People with Disabilities

Althought it was published in the 1990's, it is worth reminding ourselves of the recommendations of the Commission of the Status of People with Disabilities


The Disability section of Fas' website contains information relating to training and employment for people with disabilities.

Fas booklet on Supports for people with disabilities and for employers

NUIG Centre for Disability Law and Policy

The Centre for Disability Law & Policy at the National University of Ireland, Galway. The Centre was formally established in 2008 and is dedicated to produce research that informs debate on national and international disability law reform.