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health / disability issues |
Friday April 28, 2006 12:59 by Miriam Cotton
McDowell turns his gaze on disability
An advertisement has appeared in national papers today inviting applications from voluntary disability organisations to apply for money for, er, well, it's difficult to say actually. But it's definitely got something to do with 'developing operational capacity'.
The ad is reproduced here, with commentary below, in the hope that other readers might be able to shed more light on what this is all about. If the road to hell is paved with 'good' intentions then surely this is a particularly large slab falling into place along the route:
"The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Michael McDowell, TD, invites applications for funding under the 'Enhancing Disability Services Project Funding' from voluntary, not for profit organisations working in the disability sector based in the State.
As part of a Multi-Annual Investment Programme for Disability, a sum of E6million is being made available for 2007-8 from this distinct funding programme. The programme aims to contribute to the development of improved services for disabled people through:
*promoting the development of collaborative approaches and innovative linkages between existing infrastructure and new needs;
*improving coordination between disability organisations; and
*enhancing existing structures & developing operational capacity
To assist this process three public information meetings have been organised as follows, and will commence at 10am sharp:
*18th May 2006 - Glenroyal Hotel, Maynooth
*23rd May 2006 - Carrigaline Court Hotel, Carigaline, Cork
*24th May 2006 Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill, Galway
Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to attend one of the information meetings. Attendance at a specified venue to be notified to Pobal (email@example.com) by 15 May 2006
Appraisal of the applications and the management and support of successful projects will be undertaken by Pobal on behalf of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
Application forms for the EDS programme together with progr4amme guidelines are available from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform's website (www.justice.ie) and also from Pobal's website (www.pobal.ie). They are also available directly from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform by telephoning 01-4790252."
So, a large sum of money is going to be set aside, again, for people to talk about how they do what they do. It is true that the disability 'sector' needs to be better coordinated but when you hear terms like 'developing operational capacity' from McDowell you know, don't you, where you are really going. How many voluntary groups will come out of this exercise alive, I wonder, once it arrives at its conclusions - timed nicely for not too long AFTER the next general election, incidentally, but yet a good while before the one after that. If good news was anticipated I suspect the timetabling would be very different. This government has perfected the art of smiling beatifically at its citizens, claiming that it's heart is large and generous - even while it is chopping your hands and feet off.
If you go to the Pobal website, as you are invited to in the ad, you will discover that in fact no further information is available there. What you are told is that the application forms and other information will not be available until the 18th of May which is, coincidentally, the day of the first public meeting. All of the public meetings will have been concluded within a matter of 6 days, including a weekend. So that's just four working days of consultation before the project, whatever it is, gets underway.
Meanwhile, we can only speculate about exactly what it is that voluntary organisations are being asked to do. Can anyone help with that? Is there something in the ad that I am missing? Why would anyone go to a meeting when they dont know what it's about?
You might notice also that we are not talking about an open meeting as such: 'Attendance at a specified venue to be notified to Pobal...by 15th May 2006'.
Well, I've just registered to attend the meeting in Cork and will be anxious to report back once I've understood what this is all about. But I don't like the sound of it, at all. 'Enhancing disability services' is a pretty straightforward thing, really. You build and staff well-run respite homes, for example. You train and appoint an adequate number of pshychologists, therapists and others so that people with disability can have assessments when they need them and therapies when they are most likely to make a difference. You require employers and public authorities to ensure that disabled access is a prerequiste in the building of all new facilities and that arrangements are made for converting old buildings. You supplement that effort with taxes (preferably collected from foreign companies exploiting our natural resources). You fund the voluntary organisations themselves adequately so that where they are providing services they can ensure all their potential and actual users can have the facilities they need. And so forth. Oh, I wish I was McDowell for even one month. Let me rephrase that. I wish I had his job for one month.
If anyone can get along to the Galway or Maynooth meetings, it would be interesting to compare notes here afterwards.