It is with regret and disappointment that today, on International Day of People with Disabilities, we at the National Platform of Self-Advocates have to announce that we will be closing down our operations from January due to an absence of funding or suitable supports for our work.
We are Ireland’s first disabled persons organisation (DPO) and remain the only one directed, managed and run by people with intellectual disabilities. Since 2011, we have advocated for the rights of disabled people. We have over 350 members. Our work is done by our steering committee. We are all volunteers and none of us draw down salaries. We have one independent facilitator whom we pay to provide us with support as we need it. Our costs are few, our contribution is huge. We have members on the Disability Advisory Committee that is monitoring the implementation of the UNCRPD. We have been involved in the Taskforce on Personalised Budgets, the Make Work Pay Consultations among many others. We have done our own research into the lives of people with intellectual disabilities living in Ireland and presented these findings to government. Now this work is ending.
At the beginning, we were funded by Genio and by Atlantic Philanthropies. They saw how few authentic DPOs there are in Ireland, and agreed with us that funding independent DPOs is an essential part of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Since 2018, we have been trying to find state funding, but we have been excluded from public funding streams because of the way our organisation is run. There are no accessible training programmes on how to become the type of organisation that the state will fund. Every solution that has been offered to us has asked us to hand over control of our organisation to non-disabled people, or to lose the independence we have taken years to build. We cannot allow this to happen.
Minister McGrath has tried to keep us afloat since 2018 with small interim payments. However we can’t do our work on a month by month basis. We have a 3 year strategic plan and need stability for our members to be able to deliver this work. We had hoped the adoption of the CRPD would help the state to recognise the unique needs of DPOs and open up new supports for our work, but it seems this is not the case.
People with intellectual disabilities are one of the most excluded groups in Irish society. Often other people try to speak for us and over us, but we have our own voices, and we have the right to have our voices heard. We are hugely disappointed that our contribution to disability rights in Ireland is now ending.
We thank our members, our supporters and our allies in the wider disability rights community for their support to date. We wish you better success than we have had. We are not optimistic for the future inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland.
“Nothing about us without us”.
Brian Hayes, Joe McGrath, Christina Burke, Dermot Lowndes, David Fraughan, Mairead Forde, Brian Carroll.
The Steering Committee of the National Platform of Self-Advocates
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