Staff Picks:

Disability fund will meet demand, claims department

‘That’s the thing about your death . . . it pulls in all your loved ones’

Suzy Byrne: A pause? We need more than that … we need a real discussion on disability

Dedicated to changing lives

Education cuts in the budget


Higher & Further Education News & Views

Who earns most in higher education?

High Earners, Low Funding

Heavy Hitters

USI warning on university fees hike

1,200 college places for jobless unfilled

Higher student fees and fewer teachers on way with €76m cuts

Fees are going up, but you can still win an achievement award


Disability Headlines

€2.5m intellectual disability centre planned for Clonakilty

They have pride, passion and dignity — and they deserve so much more

Cuts ‘will trap young disabled’

We’re in panic mode all the time

Link between ADHD and body clock established

BAI launches public consultation on access 


Budget Coverage of Disability Payments

Gilmore defends cuts to disability payments

Kenny announces review of payments to young disabled

Proposed cuts: measures would have saved €36m

Young people with disabilities to be ‘further excluded from society’

‘I thought that Enda Kenny was going to be a legend . . . Not anymore’

Suzy Byrne: We’re not talking bad backitis here … we’re talking about people with real disabilities

Dear Enda …

A U-turn that raises as many questions as it answers

Blame game on over disability pay plan

‘They did not think this through’

Climbdowns seriously undermined the previous coalition

Disability cut U-turn – In fairness, better late than never

Apology as Bill on disability pulled


General Education Stories

Pupil-teacher ratio change on hold until at least 2013

Building blocks to your child’s future

Pilot scheme for pupil literacy expands to eight more schools

Bus fee the main route to school economies

1,000 teachers to take early retirement

Ratio changes threaten student guidance

Quinn defends broken pledge not to increase fees

School transport appeals increase 500% in four years

Quinn told schools could have no heat

In My Opinion: Parents will have a more active role in how schools adapt to changes


Mental Health in the Media

Seeking answers but not retribution on subject of suicide

Column: Suicide isn’t just about depression – it’s about all of us

‘Depression can be a slow ebb’

€35m cash for mental health

Half of psychiatric admissions have a drug problem

Families protest against closure of psychiatric unit

Actor Brenda Fricker says she battled with depression

HSE sends psychiatric notes to wrong family


Employment Features

Employers will pay for sick leave, vows Burton

Here are the explicit points related to disability and education (mainly third level) in the programme for government. Other areas of interest to you may be the employment schemes (no specific mention of disability), changes in minimum wage, no change in social welfare rates and the area of political reform. To read the full programme for government you can follow this link:

Mental Health

  • Our policy on mental health incorporates the recommendations of A Vision for Change. We are committed to reducing the stigma of mental illness, ensuring early and appropriate intervention and vastly improving access to modern mental health services in the community.
  • A comprehensive range of mental health services will be included as part of the standard insurance package offered under Universal Health Insurance.
  • Given the central role of primary care in our reforms, we will ensure that patients can access mental health services such as psychologists and counsellors in the primary care setting. We will also strengthen GP education and training in mental health so that they can better diagnose, treat and refer as necessary.
  • We will ring fence €35m annually from within the health budget to develop community mental health teams and services as outlined in A Vision for Change to ensure early access to more appropriate services for adults and children and improved integration with primary care services.
  • Part of the ring-fenced funding will be used to implement Reach Out, the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, to reduce the high levels of suicide.
  • We will close unsuitable psychiatric institutions moving patients to more appropriate community-based facilities and will develop specific strategies for elderly patients and those with intellectual disabilities who remain under the care of mental health services.
  • To ensure a joined-up approach to mental health in the community we will establish a cross-departmental group to ensure that good mental health is a policy goal across a range of people’s life experiences including education, employment and housing for example.
  • We will endeavour to end the practice of placing children and adolescents in adult psychiatric wards.
  • We will review the Mental Health Act 2001 in consultation with service users, carers and other stakeholders, informed by human rights standards, and introduce a Mental Capacity Bill that is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Other Health Priorities

  • We will develop a National Carers Strategy to support carers and to address issues of concern.
  • We will reopen discussions with the Irish Thalidomide Association regarding further compensation for victims of Thalidomide.


  • Student Grants (Higher Education Maintenance grants), currently administered by local city and county councils will now be administered by the new ‘National Employment and Entitlement Services’ under the Department of Social Protection;
  • International Education features with a number of new promises – most significantly for students will be that postgraduates will be allowed stay for one year now after graduation (compared to current 6 months) and high value research students staying for over 2 years will be allowed bring their families to Ireland;
  • Undertake a full review of Hunt and OECD reports on third level funding before the end of 2011. The goal being to create a sustainable funding mechanism that does not impact access for students.
  • We will publish a plan for the implementation of the EPSEN Act 2004 to prioritise access for children with special needs to an individual education plan. The priority will be to move to a system where necessary supports follow a child from primary to second level and to achieve greater integration of special needs-related services.
  • We will support diversity in education of children with special needs, recognising that both intensive education and mainstreaming can be seen to work for individual children.
  • We recognise the critical importance of early diagnosis of autism and early intervention and address current deficits in this area. We will reverse the cut to the number of psychologists in National Educational Psychological Service in Budget 2011.


Equality is at the heart of what it means to be a citizen in our democracy. This

Government believes that everyone has the right to be free from discrimination and that we all benefit from living in a more equal society.

People with Disabilities

  • We will ensure that the quality of life of people with disabilities is enhanced and that resources allocated reach the people who need them. To achieve this, we will reform the delivery of public services to bring about back office savings that will protect front line services.
  • We will also facilitate people with disabilities in achieving a greater level of participation in employment, training and education.
  • We will publish, following wide consultation, a realistic implementation plan for the National Disability Strategy, including sectoral plans with achievable timescales and targets within available resources. We will ensure whole-of-government involvement and monitoring of the Strategy, in partnership with the disability sector.
  • We will seek to get best value for money for investment in services and to ensure that services meet the needs of users. A Comprehensive Spending Review will examine all provision for people with disabilities with a view to determining how users can get the best services. We will also ensure that money spent on disability services under the National Disability Strategy is clearly laid out and audited.
  • As part of this Review we will move a proportion of public spending to a personal budget model so that people with disabilities or their families have the flexibility to make choices that suit their needs best. Personal budgets also introduce greater transparency and efficiency in funding services.
  • We will put the National Standards for Residential Services for People with Disabilities on a statutory footing and ensure that services are inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority.
  • We will examine different mechanisms to promote the recognition of Irish Sign


  • We will reform the law on mental capacity to ensure the greatest degree of autonomy for people with intellectual disabilities or suffering with mental illnesses in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • In planning legislation, we will promote and support universal design whereby all environments can be used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of age, ability or disability.

A substantial part of all of AHEAD’s work  is trying to make sure that our information/ knowledge gets to the people who can use it to make positive changes – in essence lobbying. Where possible, I’ll try to keep you updated on some of the meetings I or my colleagues have had. Ann Heelan, my boss, and our director sent on this feedback from a recent meeting she had.

“AHEAD, Brendan Goldsmith (Chair of AHEAD’s Board of Directors) and Ann Heelan (Director of AHEAD) met with Minister of State for Equality, Disability and Mental Health John Moloney, Brian Power (Principal Officer, Higher Education-Equity of Access Section , Department of Education and Science (DES) ), and  Leo Sheedy (Assistant Principal, Employment and Training Supports for People with Disabilities Section, Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment (DETE) ) to update the minister on inequalities experienced by students with disabilities in making the change from second level education to higher education and on to work.

Issues discussed included

  • the need to improve the learning experience of second level students with visual impairments and dyslexia by providing them with alternative textbooks, electronic books in particular.
  • the need to ensure children with disability who need technology to learn, to read materials etc are taught how to use it and are provided with the correct hardware and software to enable them to learn in a way comparable with other children
  • the barriers for students with disability in the application screening system for primary school teaching
  • the need to base the FÁS system of workplace grants on reasonable accommodations, the current system favours those who need equipment yet ignores those who need transport or interpreters to access and maintain employment.

The Minister is committed to seeing just how he can bring about improvements to these areas, in particular he is interested in following up with the main publishers for school textbooks just how they can be made available electronically. AHEAD will be  following  up on these issues with the Minister and the DES and DETE departments.”

Working with the publishers of school textbooks is a a low/ no cost measure that is theoretically very possible. Should all this feedback be taken on board, it has the potential to make a significant differences. Watch this space!