Staff Picks:

Life and love

Column: My long journey out of the darkness

Universities will lose their way if they put commercial activities ahead of the education of students

Motivation key to repeating Leaving Cert

Ellie Simmonds: ‘When we’re in the pool, it’s war’

RTE Documentary: Two for the Road Episode 1


Higher & Further Education News & Views

Colleges warned to stop duplication of courses or face cuts to funding

Take-up of college offers hits a high

UCC staff to test out hybrid vehicles

Figures suggest tight battle for college places

Probiotic bacteria may help treat anxiety, says team

Fees may be key to future, says new TCD provost

Little change in CAO points for courses

Quinn must get tough on the reform of our education system

3,300 get second-round CAO offer

The consequences of increasing access to education


Disability Headlines

Family win fight to access son’s benefits

Questions raised over HSE fund after court case

Event in aid of motorneuron sufferers

Web brings thalidomide couple together

Chilling with the Built Environment

US stem cell hope for blind assault victim

Teacher shortage leaves nine special needs children without school place

The Big Picture on The Silver Screen

Mother hits out as SNA cuts take away ‘safety net’

Inspiring life leaves a beautiful legacy

‘Mini-pill’ may help prevent blindness…

Autistic boy refused full-time place at school


General Education Stories

Quinn criticises ‘voluntary’ pressure

Cut to Leaving Cert Applied criticised

Former hotel becomes centre of learning as pupils check in and leave prefabs behind

A new chapter: iPads in and books out

Sense of prestige and better exam results driving fee-paying boom

Cut your prices: Quinn issues ultimatum to publishers

School absenteeism – Education for everyone

Substitution funding decision ‘a planning nightmare’

Retirements will cause crisis in pastoral care, managers warn

Shutting loophole would help fight truancy, says expert

INTO issues strike threat over unqualified people

Quinn in the dark as maths crisis deepens

Standing up for our schools

Teachers will have to register by law


Mental Health in the Media

30,000 claim sickness benefits for depression

Teenager ‘begs’ for help in open letter to Health Minister


Employment Features

Entry rules for free courses to be eased

Finding a course that gives the best chance of landing a job

Minister Quinn announces eligibility change to Springboard – Six-month unemployment requirement waived for final course places

Many of you will remember an open letter on this blog from our Director, Ann Heelan with regard the recent Springboard Initiative and its exclusion of people in receipt of Disability Allowance. As a result of the lobbying done by AHEAD, change happened – as documented here.

However, joined up thinking is certainly not an approach which seems to be enjoyed by the current crop as similar issues have arisen with the new Jobbridge scheme.

On the 25th June 2011, our Director wrote to the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton on the issue. Extracts from the letter are posted below for your information. We would encourage everyone who disagrees with this exclusion to write to the Minister to outline the problems with Jobbridge.

The wonderful and always articulate Maman Poulet has also posted an interesting analysis entitled “Jobs Initiative – will it work and how it’s unattainable for some” and more recently a query around the general idealogy of the Jobbridge scheme: Jobbridge and free Labour


“The new Jobbridge scheme looks brilliant and should prove an excellent initiative to engage unemployed people with the workplace and benefit employers.

But, unfortunately this innovative scheme appears to be closed to unemployed people on disability allowance.  There seems to be an assumption underpinning the scheme that people on disability allowance are not fit to work 30 hours per week and could not be job seekers.  Yet this assumption is simply not true.  People with disability are on DA for historic reasons and many can work, want to work, are frustrated with the jobs market and lack of opportunity.  In fact the scheme itself entitles people on DA to engage with education, training and employment opportunities.

The commission report on the status of people with disabilities recognised ten years ago that people with disabilities are significantly under-represented in the workplace and that unemployment has a disproportionate effect on them compared to others in the population.  This situation has not changed since and in the recession education, employment and training are even more important routes for people with disabilities to achieve economic and social independence. The commission report identifies mainstream inclusion as a human right and the preferred option of people with disabilities.  “many people with disabilities feel they are pushed to the margins of society[1] 

Minister, as you know, there are over 6,800 students with verified disabilities in higher education, more again in Further Education and all have expectations of careers, but are affected by the recession and current lack of opportunities.  These people need the same breaks as anyone else and Jobbridge is an excellent initiative for all unemployed people to re-engage actively with the workplace.

AHEAD knows the benefit of internships and have operated the Willing Able Mentoring Internship Scheme (FAS Funded) for 6 years for graduates with disabilities.  Even in a booming economy people with disabilities go the end of the jobs queue and experience additional barriers to employment related to their disability.  The WAM scheme, similar to the Jobbridge recognises the value of work experience as an instrument to break down the barriers and encourage employers to see the talent and ability of people with disability.  It provides fully paid internships of 6-9 months duration for graduates with disabilities immediately changing their status from recipients of disability allowance to tax payers.  The benefits are considerable to the individual, in terms of skills acquisition, to employers who benefit by building capacity to be inclusive and to the government who have graduates switching from DA to becoming taxpayers.  This month alone we know of three graduates with disabilities whose internships have led to employment.

Unfortunately people on disability allowance are not eligible for Jobbridge.  This decision to exclude them from these opportunities is surprising as it would appear to be disconnected from government policy to include people with disabilities in mainstream training and employment opportunities.  Furthermore the Department responsible for employment has through its Disability Sectoral Plan, worked to raise awareness of disability in the workplace and has supported initiatives designed to build the capacity of employers, schemes such as the 02 awards, WAM and others. Most people with disabilities are on disability allowance, in spite of their work history, and so far have had access to mainstream initiatives such as the BTEA scheme and other employment opportunities.

A recent UN report of independent experts on the compliance of Ireland with international human rights states clearly that human rights are not dispensable in times of economic hardship.  Ireland is obliged to ensure human rights equally without discrimination of any kind and should avoid retrogressive measures.  Furthermore it stresses that “the state recall its obligations of non –discrimination and equality in activation policies”[2].

As a country we cannot use our financial difficulties as a reason to disregard our human rights obligations.

We are most concerned that new opportunities are closed to people on disability allowance.  Furthermore it is giving a negative message to employers that their equality obligations are dispensable and that it is OK to exclude people with disabilities.

Employers want the best and many people with disabilities have the qualifications, attitudes and abilities sought by employers, WAM has proved it.  We would ask you to review the eligibility criteria for entry to JobBridge as it will bring greater benefits to employers engaged by raising inclusion issues and it will benefit the whole community of jobseekers.”

[1] A strategy for equality Report of the Commission on the Status of people with disabilities

[2] Un Human Rights Council, Report of the independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty May 2011



UPDATED Monday 27.06.2011 More information on changes here

See message below from Ann Heelan, Director of AHEAD:

RE: SPRINGBOARD eligibility for graduates with disability

The excellent Springboard Initiative has 5,900 new higher education places available to unemployed people on Higher Education courses directed at meeting skill shortages identified by Forfas such as ICT, Retro fitting and the green economy.

Unfortunately these innovative opportunities are closed to unemployed people with disabilities because of the social welfare category within which they find themselves, disability allowance rather than unemployment benefits.  This decision to excluse those on disability allowance is based on the assumption that they are unavailable for work, an assumption which simply is not true. A great many people with disabilities have good qualifications, are unemployed due to their disability or the effect of the recession but want to work and to avail of educational opportunities available to other unemployed people.

The situation of the economy is in crisis, we all know this but it does not justify excluding citizens by denying them their entitlement to participate in education.  A recent UN Report of the independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda clearly states that human rights are not dispensable in times of economic hardship.  It recognises the discrimination that disabled people face in education and in the workplace and urges the Irish Government to meet its commitment to the education and employment of people with disabilities.

The decision to exclude graduates with disabilities from this innovative initiative is unfair and risks discrimination.  Furthermore it is disconnected from objectives in the National Plan to widen education and employment opportunities. Many People with disabilities want to train and up-skill and have the same opportunities to enter alternative careers and this regressive measure puts them once again at the back of an ever lengthening queue.

Ensuring education courses are open to students with disability is standard practice throughout he higher education sector which has made enormous strides in recent years to ensure equality of educational opportunities to disadvantaged groups.  Many courses allocate quotes to students with disability could Springboard not do the same?  Allocating a quota of places on Springboard for unemployed graduates would allow them as citizens ofIrelandto benefit equally from the great opportunities afforded to their peers by Springboard.

We urge you to please endorse our position by contacting me by e.mail

Your support is much appreciated.

Ann Heelan

Executive Director

Another week down and the weather is looking up for the weekend!

This weeks pick of the week is Tony Bates Column in the Irish Times, the first of a two part series on suicide:

We must give young people a reason to live

Other articles of interest:

UN claims State’s poor hardest hit by low taxes

UN human rights expert calls for higher taxes for those who can afford it

Cut of 250 language support teachers

Special Olympics chief to decide on Aras run in days

‘Talk therapy’ options replace medication

‘Little evidence’ anti-psychotics help treatment of challenging behaviour

School’s out for the home-educators

Disability hate crime could lead to more suicides like Fiona Pilkington

It’s time to re-imagine the ways we teach our children

Focus on the task, not yourself. . .

Religion class must be easy to opt out of, says report

College offer to jobless in skills drive

Education report: rights body backs diversity in schools

Top ten tips from the experts to make the most of pre-exam time

University entrance scholarships explained

O’Reilly calls for radical reform of education

Foreign language for college may be ended

Quinn warns on rising pupil numbers

MS Ireland and UL join forces to further research

Scheme aims to reskill 6,000 jobless

We’re no longer the best: Quinn

Call to expand rehabilitation services for crash survivors

Employers want recruits to hold 2:1 honours degrees

Taoiseach commits to radical education reforms

Quinn: Education standards slipped

Judge warns parents about pupils missing school

Administrator welcomes debate on religion in schools