Launch of book by Mr. Paul Alford

Tuesday September 26th 2017

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and at the outset let me say how delighted I am to have been asked to be here with you this evening at the launch of Paul’s book.

As many of you will know, the Department of Health has, for several years, been involved in a reform programme for disability services. Paul Alford is a classic example of this reform working properly.

As a Government we must change how disability services are funded and provided.

We must aim to shift choice and control from professionals and administrators to where it rightfully belongs – the individual with a disability.

We must aim to ensure that services and supports for people with disabilities are delivered with greater efficiency, transparency and accountability.  To that end I want to commend Inclusion Ireland for the support which they have given to Paul over the years. To see where he is today is a clear example of the incredible work which you do.

This reform programme is known as Transforming Lives. It is an ambitious title because it is an ambitious project. But standing here with you this evening, having heard Paul’s story told in his book, it is clearly the correct title.

The move into community living really is transformative. And in recent years, fortunately, many people have had the opportunity to make that move. As Minister for Disabilities it is a great privilege to hear success stories such as Paul’s.

Paul’s journey has not been an easy one. It is a journey that he was determined to make and his tenacity and belief in himself has won the day.

I am conscious that for a lot of people the move to community living is taking too long. However, I want to reassure you of the Government’s commitment to the policy of decongregation.

This Government’s objective is to deliver disability services that are person -centred. Being “Person Centred” is about putting those who use our service at the centre of all our activities. It is about listening to people or their advocates, and transferring our focus from the service itself to the people who use it.

A key commitment in the Programme for Partnership Government was the establishment of a Task Force on Personalised Budgets for people with disabilities, which I launched in September last year.

The Task Force’s remit is to make recommendations on a personalised budget model which will give people with disabilities more control in how they access HSE funded support services.

A personal budget will give people greater independence and choice in accessing the services which best meet their individual needs.

The Task Force is due to report by the end of the year and I look forward to receiving their recommendations.

Our actions are intended to give people with disabilities a life of their own choosing – choosing how to spend their day without the constraints of a large organisation around them, while still having all the supports they need.

As you know Paul lives in Navan and is a very active participant in his community.

I am a few years older than Paul but he has visited more countries than I’ve dreamed of visiting. He’s been to Australia, Germany, France, Austria, Italy to name but a few. Indeed I hear that he is off to Dresden in the old East Germany in a couple of weeks.

Paul’s story of successfully transitioning to independent living is inspirational. My spies tell me that he cooks a mean sirloin steak so we all know where to head to in Navan if we’re looking for somewhere to eat.

Paul’s journey to where he is today hasn’t been easy. I believe the key to how he has navigated that journey so well is that he defines himself, and demands to be defined, on his abilities and not by his disability.

You are an absolute inspiration to us all Paul and I know everyone will join me in congratulating Paul on this wonderful achievement of having your book and published and I wish you  every success in the future.