Drumlish native James Cawley is one of many disabled people leading a campaign to legislate for a right to personal assistance. James is one of thousands of disabled people who lives independently thanks to the personal assistance service. He is calling on all TDs to support a motion being put before the Dáil tomorrow evening.
“Independent Living is about having the freedom to have the same choices that everyone else has in housing, transportation, education and employment. Independent living is about choosing what aspects of social, economic and political life people want to participate in. Independent living is about having control over your life, to have a family, to get a job, to participate socially and to realise your goals and dreams. It is about equality, and fairness and choice, not dependence or charity. For many disabled people, Independent Living can best be achieved by the employment of Personal Assistants to provide supports where needed,” Mr Cawley explained.
Mr Cawley is Policy Officer with the Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI), which is a true disabled person’s organisation (DPO) that is led by disabled people from across the country and is running the campaign to a right to a Personal Assistance Service. Independent Living Movement Ireland’s vision is an Ireland where disabled persons have freedom, choice and control over all aspects of their lives and that they can fully participate in an inclusive society as equals. ILMI recognises that the support needs to be legislated for as a basic human right. Thomas Pringle TD has worked with ILMI to bring a motion into the Dail which will be debated on November 19th.
"At ILMI we believe that a right to a personal assistance service for disabled people is fundamental to achieving that vision. We need all politicians to support this motion,” added Mr Cawley.
“The Personal Assistance Service (PAS) is a tool that allows us disabled people to live independently. The PAS enables us to do all the tasks that we cannot do for ourselves. It provides us with the freedom and flexibility we need to live our lives as we choose. A Personal Assistant (PA) is hired to assist us with a range of day-to-day tasks that we cannot physically do for ourselves.
"With a PAS we are in control and direct the PA to carry out tasks both inside and outside of the home, including personal care, domestic duties, assisting in day-to-day tasks such as shopping, support in the workplace or socialising. A PA does not 'look after' or 'care for' us disabled people. We delegate these tasks to our PAs and in doing so take back control of our lives.
"A distinct benefit of PAS is that it reduces our dependence on our family and friends. The confidential relationship that develops between our PAs and us allows us to maintain a private life and our dignity. The PAS is often the difference between existing and living for many of us.
"For me I'm a son, brother, uncle, friend, fiancé, co-worker but I couldn’t take on these roles if I didn’t have a PA. In Ireland we need legislation, investment and we need the personal assistance service to be enshrined into legislation to ensure I can be a brother, fiancé, that son, that uncle! Disabled people don’t need a hand out – we need a hand up sometimes."
According to information submitted by the HSE to the Committee on Public Petitions in 2017, 1.51 million service hours were delivered to 2,470 people.
84.44% of who received a PAS received less than three hours per day on average.
With 44.41% of them in receipt of an average of 42 minutes per day.
“It is clear that anyone who receives an average of 42 minutes per day is not going to be able to live independently, access education or employment or become involved in meaningful social engagement. Disabled people with reduced services of this nature will become trapped in their own homes without the chance to interact and will be prone to isolation and depression and effectively institutionalised in their own homes," said Mr Cawley.
“When services like a PAS are absent in my life it’s only then that I realise I'm disabled. A PAS is an extension of my limbs, my arms and legs really! I delegate all tasks to my personal assistant to do what I need to do. It’s a unique relationship that has to work, compatibility is extremely important we are people not robots.
"Irrespective of employment or services we need to lead our lives the way we want to, we have a right to live our lives with choice, dignity and respect - just by virtue of being me. After all, a society is where we all participate together where we embrace our diversity and promote equality. Disability does not discriminate, it’s me today but it could be you tomorrow. Disabled people want to work and with the use of a PA, many will make a vast contribution to society, not only communally, but financially.
“Now think about your brother, your sister, your loved one who may require a PA over their lifetime. Over 13% of the Irish population has a disability now, disability is a societal issue, it is part of the human condition. A PAS is hugely cost effective to the state and allows disabled people to have their needs supported in the community in a dignified way,” Mr Cawley remarked.
"On November 19, a motion will be brought before the Dáil to debate our right to a Personal Assistance Service (PAS). It is vital that we all work together to let our TDs know how important a PAS is to us and what a real PAS is. This is the first step in a long road to securing our right to access the PAS, we need to live as equal citizens in our communities. It is a crucial step and we need your support now to ensure we can all ensure real Independent Living becomes a reality in this country."
For more information on the ILMI #PASNOW Campaign visit www.ilmi.ie or follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ILMIreland/ or Twitter @ILMIreland or Instagram @ilmireland.