Adams welcomes WALK PEER funding commitment

DSC_3254_6510Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has welcomed the news that funding for the Ardee based WALK PEER project has been confirmed until July 2017.

Gerry Adams said,

“I have been intensively lobbying Minister Finian McGrath to save WALK PEER for the past six months and I commend him for his delivery on his commitments. I’m delighted that those participating and working on the project have at last had some good news.

“WALK PEER will be funded by the Department of Social Protection until the end of July 2017.

“At this point the project will be eligible to apply to the €2 million pre activation support scheme as outlined in the Comprehensive Employment Strategy.

“WALK Peer is an exemplary programme which has dramatically changed the lives of young people with disabilities in my constituency.

“Last year 119 young people availed of the programme and they achieved very positive outcomes.

“WALK Peer has proven to be successful in ensuring that young people with disabilities are afforded equal access to employment, education and training.

“The dedicated staff, peer mentors, young people and local community in Louth have fought to ensure this programme has been available for young people with disabilities, despite facing threat of closure since last summer.

“In 2015 the Government took the disastrous decision to close the Disability Activation Scheme (DACT) which supported people in receipt of disability or illness welfare payments.

“In light of this, and the lack of Government commitments on future activation schemes, I will again urge that the Minister ring-fences funding to ensure the long-term provision of supports for this group of citizens with disabilities.”

No funding for WALK PEER – Minister should resign: Adams

DSC_3254_6510Sinn Féin Louth Gerry Adams TD, today (Wednesday) raised the difficulties faced by citizens with disabilities and in particular the future of the Louth based WALK PEER project with the Taoiseach during Leaders Questions.

The Louth TD revealed that he had met with Minister McGrath on Tuesday to discuss funding for WALK PEER. Teachta Adams told the Dáil that “if Minister McGrath can’t find the funding he should resign.”

Gerry Adams also urged the Taoiseach to ensure that Budget 2017 is “fair to citizens with disabilities, their families and carers.  A person with a disability should have the same rights as everyone else.”

The text of the statement:

“The Programme for Government commits that ‘persons with disabilities should be supported to maximise their potential, by removing barriers which impact on access to services, education, work and healthcare’. 

“That’s the rhetoric. The reality is different. In 2011, the Taoiseach said disability services would not be cut, but then savagely cut these supports.

“In my own constituency of Louth and east Meath, the impact of those cuts is evident, particularly for the 5,000 citizens of Louth with an intellectual disability.  The WALK PEER project enables young people with a disability to access opportunities in mainstream education, training and employment within their communities.

“It was one of the fourteen Disability Activation Schemes jointly funded by the Department of Social Protection and the European Social Fund, until funding was withdrawn in a move that made no sense whatsoever.

“Only one project has survived – it is based in Louth. After intense lobbying by parents, carers and the young people it received temporary funding until Christmas.

“WALKPEER has undertaken fantastic work in fostering vital links between young citizens and employers, educators and the wider community. It is fully in line with the government’s strategy, as set out in the Disability Act 2004, the National Disability Strategy 2015-2020, the EPSEN Act and the ‘Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities’.

“WALKPEER would cost €300,000 annually, provided from across six Departments. It makes economic sense, especially in the context of the almost 600,000 people who are living with a disability in the State; over half of whom are of working age, and many of whom want a pathway to employment. The WALKPEER model provides that pathway.

“The ‘Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities’ has been on a shelf for ten years now without funding allocated to it. A committee was set up in October 2015 to examine the benefits and future of Disability Activation Schemes. Thus far, the committee hasn’t issued a report. This is hardly surprising. It has only met twice.

“One of the participants in WALKPEER – a young woman – has recently gained a place in college. A young man wants to be an usher here in Leinster House. A young woman who was suicidal is now training to be a make-up artist.

“These citizens and their families have the right to the modest support that is required. I met Minister Finian McGrath on this issue on Tuesday. I wish him well, but in my view, if he can’t get funding for this project he should resign from the government.

“This year’s budget is an opportunity to correct some of these injustices and the government should outline the steps it is going to take in this year’s budget to address the urgent need for real support for citizens with disabilities, their families and carers.”

 

Back WALK Peer project – Adams

Gerry Adams SmilingSinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has welcomed the commitment by the Minister for Disabilities Finian McGrath during Topical Issues in the Dáil today to “meet the families of young disabled people who have been participating in the WALK Peer project in Louth.”

Teachta Adams said:

“The Minister acknowledged in his contribution to the Dáil that WALK Peer is a very good project for disabled young people and is good value for money.

It makes no sense that this project should come to an end July because of the failure of the government to find a relatively small amount of money.

I have urged the Minister for Disabilities and the Minister for Social Protection to take whatever steps are necessary to keep open the Louth WALK Peer project which is threatened with closure at the end of July.”

Note to Editor:

WALK Peer is one of 14 disability activation projects that were jointly funded by the Department of Social Protection and the European Social Fund. The programme began in 2012 and ended last summer.

The purpose of DACT (disability activation project), which was established under the  ‘Providing Equal Employment Routes’ (PEER) project, was to “explore a variety of routes towards ensuring that people with disabilities were enabled to avail of progression, education and development opportunities within the world of work”.

The Louth project remained open over the last year because it received funding from the Ulster Bank under a Skills and Opportunity Fund.

Cllr Munster Welcomes Success On Walk Peer Programme Motion

Imelda Munster Walk PeerSinn Féin Councillor Imelda Munster has welcomed the unanimous support her motion received at Louth County Council calling on the government and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to ‘ensure that funding is provided to continue and expand the Walk Peer Programme in Louth and to request that funding be attached to the upcoming Comprehensive Employment Strategy so that the programme is sustainable long term’.

Commenting after the council meeting, Cllr Munster said “this programme is vital for young persons with disabilities between the ages of 16 to 24 and has engaged 119 young people who want to participate as equal citizens and contribute positively to Irish society. The programme is due to close on July 31st as to date no long term funding has been secured. Walk peer has, in its short term in operation, had 60% progression to mainstream training, education and employment and offers support and encouragement for young adults with disabilities to reach their full potential and no one else is delivering this type of individualised, employment programme in Louth. This pilot programme has been hugely successful and there is an onus on the government to facilitate successful projects such as Walk Peer and allocate sustainable funding to enable them to continue to achieve long term outcomes for young people with disabilities in Louth.”