We were delighted to meet the Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation and Cavan-Monaghan TD Heather Humphreys and representatives from the Department of Health to discuss barriers facing children and adults with Down syndrome in the areas of education and employment. We also highlighted the issues facing our members and their families due to long HSE waiting lists.
Pictured is the Minister with CEO Gary Owens, Head of Employment Aoife Gaffney, Head of our Member Support Team Nicola Hart and Head of Education Fidelma Brady. Our Head of Communications and Public Affairs Cathy Gray was also in attendance.
As part of the meeting, we highlighted the supports needed to ensure children with Down syndrome thrive on their educational journey and as such, are put on a pathway to live the best life they can. Areas discussed included the need for the EPSEN Act to up updated and ratified, access to Individual Education Plans and July Provision for our children.
We also discussed the barriers facing school-leavers in accessing further education and meaningful employment opportunities. We called for a multi-pronged approach to support adults who wish to enter the workforce across all Government departments. School-leavers should be able to access further education and training programmes, such our Ability Programme, without the fear of losing their disability funding and access to a place with a service provider should they need additional support in their later years.
We also called for employers to be further supported to employ people with disabilities, including expanding the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s wage subsidy scheme, which is an initiative that gives financial support to employers who employ people with disabilities from 21 hours to 39 hours a week. We believe the scheme should be tiered over a three year period to fully support people to access employment.
In the area of health, we stressed how long waiting lists to access the most basic of supports from the HSE are negatively impacting children and adults with Down syndrome and causing untold stress and worry for families. We also stressed the need for additional speech and language therapists and occupational therapists and physiotherapists and vital early intervention supports for babies and children with Down syndrome.We thank Minister Humphreys for taking the time to meet with us and we look forward to progressing these issues with her ongoing support.