24. Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony asked the Taoiseach if his Department is improving services and increasing supports for persons with disabilities during 2017. (Question 34986/17 asked on 26 Jul 2017)

The Taoiseach: My Department supports the implementation of national policies and strategies designed to advance the lives of people with disabilities including the recently published National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021.

As Taoiseach and Head of Government, I encourage and endorse every effort to improve the services and supports for people with disabilities.

I want everyone to reach their full potential by ensuring that everyone gets a fair chance.

The Government has already taken a number of key decisions as recommended in the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities, namely a phased increase in the public service employment target for people with disabilities from 3% to 6% and plans to provide alternative recruitment channels and special public service competitions for people with disabilities.

These and other recommendations of the Strategy are being considered by a cross-party group chaired by Mr Fergus Finlay.

The Disability Act, 2005, obliges all public sector organisations, including my Department and the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), to employ a minimum of 3% of staff with a disability. As at 31 December 2016, 4.59% of the staff of my Department and 5.5% of the staff of NESDO voluntarily disclosed a disability.

My Department is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all staff. Staff are recruited on the basis that they meet the requirements of the positions they are to fill.

In addition to complying with the provisions of the Disability Act, 2005, we follow the guidelines set out in the Commission for Public Service Appointments’ codes of practice for appointments to positions in the Civil Service and Public Service.

My Department also participates in positive action programmes such as the Willing, Able and Mentoring Programme under the aegis of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.