In our last Strategies for Change session, we had Teresa Butler come and talk to us about local government (also known as Local Authorities or Co Councils) and Local Community Development Companies and how they can help us in our activism work.
We learned that the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage oversees the running of our local government system, providing the policy framework within which Local Authorities work and deliver services to the communities they serve.
Ireland has thirty-one Local Authorities; twenty-six of these are County Councils; three are City Councils – Dublin, Galway and Cork, and two Councils oversee a City and a County – Limerick and Waterford.
Voters (Irish citizens) elect Councillors to represent them at local level. Ireland currently has 949 elected Councillors. These people make policy decisions at Council Meetings. They can also support local people by advocating on their behalf, e.g. applying for a Personal Assistant Service, seeking planning permission, or support with an application for social housing etc.
Local Authorities are multi-purpose bodies that are responsible for delivering an extensive range of services, including roads; traffic & motor tax; planning; housing and adaptation grants; water; economic and community development; environment, recreation and amenity services; fire services and maintaining the register of electors.
Of relevance to disabled people includes:
- the provision of Accessible Social Housing (see – ILMI Key Policy Documents), the provision of the Housing Assistant Payment (HAP : see – How does HAP work?) and the provision of the Housing Adaptations Grant (see – Housing Adaptation Grants for older people and people with a disability – Private Houses)
- maintenance of footpaths, walkways and disabled parking spaces (see – A Minute Matters NO BADGE NO PARKING, & Footpaths a nightmare for disabled users, survey finds)
- overseeing planning permission applications, including some house extensions, also if a premises is changing into a restaurant or a public house, it must have planning permission to do so (see – Technical Guidance Document M – Access and Use)
- the provision of libraries that are open to everyone, and most of their services are free of charge. They also provide funding to local youth, arts and sports services, and maintain and operate public swimming pools, leisure centres and playgrounds and public facilities, like parks, (see – Launch of Irish Wheelchair Association’s “Best Practice, Access Guidelines” Webinar).
The members of each Local Authority are called ‘councillors’. Councillors are directly elected in local elections by local people. The number of councillors elected to each local authority depends on the population of the local authority area.
Each councillor holds office for five years; councillors elected in May 2019 will hold office until seven days after the next local elections in 2024.
Every Local Authority has a Chief Executive. This person is employed to manage their Local Authority. Some Local Authorities also have a Deputy Chief Executive. All Chief Executive’s remain in office for seven years – this can be extended by an additional three years.
The Chief Executive are in charge, make decisions and run their local authority, except decisions that are made by the elected councillors (reserved decisions). The Chief Executive:
- yes or no concerning applications regarding planning permission
- allocates local authority housing
- signs contracts
- manages all staff
Local Development Companies (LDC)
LDC are multi-sectoral organisations that provide community and rural development, labour market support, social inclusion, climate action and social enterprise services.
There work mainly involves supporting disadvantaged individuals and communities (see – SICAP – Community Groups). LDC’s are not-for-profit, volunteer-led organisations that provide a national service through locally-based services. They use a bottom-up approach, taking a holistic view of every individual and the community; social inclusion is also at the heart of everything they do. Their services are integrated, so employment supports, enterprise grants, social inclusion, training, well-being and environmental supports are available under one roof (see – The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme | SICAP).
Teresa is a Community Development Worker and works for Leitrim Development Company (Leitrim Development Company). As a Community Development Worker, she is currently supporting the strategic development of a local Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO) with local disabled people in conjunction with ILMI. They hope to share their learnings and have a template to develop other like-minded DPO’s in other counties by early next year. She told us that all Community Development Companies are interested in the inclusion of disabled people and are only too willing to engage in supporting meaningful change (see – Local Development Companies).
The Irish National Development Plan (NDP) & Local Development Plans
Teresa suggested that we also need to know what is in Ireland’s NDP and what is in our Local Development Plans in relation to improving the lives of disabled people. To receive Irelands NDP in accessible formats, you need to contact Steven O’Riordan (Access Officer for Publications) Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Custom House, Dublin D01 W6X0 Telephone: (01) 888 2895 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Critical areas in the NDP regarding “disability” include:
Accessible Social Housing
The Capital Assistance Scheme provides funding to support the development of housing and accommodation for disabled individuals. See below what three disabled people have to say about housing:
- see – Catherine – Our Housing Rights: Tackling the Housing Crisis Disabled People Face
- see – Jamie – Our Housing Rights: Tackling the Housing Crisis Disabled People Face
- see – Paul – Our Housing Rights: Tackling the Housing Crisis Disabled People Face
The NDP includes all of the targets set out by the recently published “Housing for All”, objective seven relates specifically to disability. See below – click on thumbnails to view large:
(source – Housing for All | A New Housing Plan for Ireland)
Decongregation and Disability Services
In line with Government policy, Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of disabled people, as well as the published findings of HIQA, there is a recognised need to “move on” from “congregated settings” (see – Time to Deliver – Feedback from Workshops & Open Forum) as a housing model for all disabled people. Accordingly, there is a planned programme to replace remaining congregated residential settings with appropriate housing in the community.
Along with this, work is also being undertaken in relation to disabled people inappropriately “placed” in nursing homes (see – 1,313 people under 65 with disabilities living in nursing homes).
The NDP refers to the Disability Capacity Review and how primary care services and health and allied services should be provided in the community (see – ILMI Overview of the Department of Health Disability Capacity).
The National Disability Inclusion Strategy (NDIS) 2017-2022 (see – National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017 – 2021) and the Comprehensive Employment Strategy (see – Employment Opportunities for People With Intellectual Disabilities) for People with Disabilities (CES) 2015-2024, commit to the provision of public transport services that are accessible for all, and especially for disabled people (see – A significant challenge’: Unclear when public transport will be fully accessible). This includes investing in older infrastructures and the ongoing maintenance of existing facilities, such as lifts, buses and trains. The Department of Transport funds a multi-annual, ring-fenced programme, managed by the National Transport Authority, towards meeting these commitments.
Inclusion in Sport
The Sports Capital and Equipment Programme (SCEP) delivered by the Department supports the development of sports and physical recreation facilities. It wants to improve female participation and support projects that are used by disabled people (see – www.caracentre.ie).
The above regarding Irelands NDP was adapted from Response to the Review of the National Development Plan.
Local Development Plans
The NDP greatly influences all local development plans with consultation from its local citizens. Teresa told us that it is important as activists that we know what is in these plans in relation to improving the lives of disabled people – e.g. Meath’s Local Development Plan is just being finalised however they don’t have any accessible formats yet. It was suggested me that I look at Chapter 3 Settlement Strategy (see – 03. Settlement and Housing Strategy) , Chapter 7 Community Building Strategy (see – 07. Community Building Strategy), and Chapter 11 DM Standards – These seek to address issues concerning disability and equality and include specific policies and objectives (see – 11. Development Management Standards and Land Use Zoning Objectives).
See video link to Galway’s Local Development Plan – Draft Galway County Development Plan 2022-2028. Galway has also formed the Galway Disability Forum: see – First meeting of the County Galway Disability Forum.
ILMI is encouraging disabled people to request their local development plan in formats that are accessible to them, and we would like to hear how you get on because its part of their Public Sector Duty.