Foreword by An Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,

Mary Harney T.D.

Photo of the minister

I am very pleased to publish the Department of Health and Children's Sectoral Plan in respect of health and personal social services provision for people with disabilities, as provided for in the Disability Act 2005.

The overall goal of the health services is to maintain and improve the health of the entire population, including people with disabilities. For people with disabilities, living as full and independent a life as possible is very important for themselves, their families and their local communities. I see the development of this Sectoral Plan as an important opportunity to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are considered in all health policy planning and service delivery processes. The philosophy of inclusion outlined in this Sectoral Plan will underpin the planning and delivery of services for people with disabilities going forward and will drive measures to ensure that all general health services are accessible by people with disabilities.

The provision of health funded services to meet identified needs of people with disabilities continues to be a priority for the Government. Our commitment in 2005 to provide a Multi-Annual Investment Programme for disability support services recognised the need to build capacity in the health services to deliver on these obligations. Around €720m of almost €900m to be provided between 2006 to 2009 under that Programme will go to the health sector. In the period since the National Disability Strategy was published, additional revenue and capital funding amounting to €285m has been provided by the Government for the enhancement of health funded services for people with disabilities, giving very clear evidence of our commitment to this sector.

Developed in consultation with stakeholders this plan sets out the actions which my Department, the HSE and the 27 statutory bodies under the aegis of my Department propose to take over the next 12 months in pursuance of their obligations under the Disability Act 2005.

Section 31 (4) (d) of the Disability Act 2005 provides that reports on progress in implementing the Sectoral Plans should be completed at intervals of not more than 3 years from the date of publication. Because this plan is the first step in a complex and constantly evolving process which will establish a baseline for access to health services and for service delivery and standards, my Department and the HSE will undertake an annual review of progress in each of the first three years. It is expected that, following each review, further actions will be identified and specific timeframes agreed with the HSE and other bodies under the aegis of my Department who have statutory or other responsibility for service planning and delivery.

While this Sectoral Plan was developed as part of my Department's responsibilities under the Disability Act 2005, it represents a commitment at all levels of the health service to access and equity of service for people with disabilities and is the first in a series of plans that will work towards achieving this goal. Although an evolving work in progress, this is an important first step in positively affecting the lives of people with disabilities.

I look forward to continued co-operation with all those who will be working towards achieving the measures set out in the Sectoral Plan and I welcome this significant step towards enhancing the level of support available from the health services to people with disabilities, their families and carers.