HC Deb 19 January 1981 vol 997 cc30-2W
Mr. Alfred Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what plans his Department has made for the International Year of Disabled People 1981; and what funds have been allocated for this purpose; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will conduct during the International Year of Disabled People 1981 a thorough review of all his Department's policies that affect disabled people; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alison

The plans of the Northern Ireland departments to mark the International Year of Disabled People are set out below. No additional funds have been earmarked for this purpose since the Northern Ireland Departments concerned are already aware of the need to adapt their policies to meet the special needs of disabled people.

I can assure the right hon. Member that the policies of the Northern Ireland Departments, as they affect disabled people, have been and will continue to be kept under constant review.

Department of Commerce Northern Ireland

1. When the provisions of the Companies (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 come into operation, the Department will seek to make regulations applying to Northern Ireland provisions on the lines of the Companies (Director's Reports) (Employment of Disabled Persons) Regulations 1980—S. I. 1980/1160.

2. The Department and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board will continue to encourage developers to provide facilities for disabled people in tourist accommodation and to give publicity to the list of suitable accommodation maintained by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

Department of the Civil Service for Northern Ireland

1. The provisions of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 are not binding on the Crown but the Government have always accepted the same employment responsibilities as other employers. The code of practice on the employment of disabled persons in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, issued in 1978, will be reviewed during the year.

2. Under the Royal Warrant of Appointment the Northern Ireland Civil Service Commission has a duty to ensure that the most suitable candidate is appointed to each post. However, the Commission recently advised chairmen and members of selection boards that they should ensure that disabled candidates are given every opportunity to demonstrate their ability to do the job and that they are sensitively handled.

Department of Education for Northern Ireland

1. The Department has written to statutory and voluntary bodies asking them to take every opportunity to participate actively and to consider how best to contribute, within existing resources, to activities organised by the Northern Ireland IYDP Voluntary Committee, which has been established to stimulate interest in the problems of disabled people.

Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland

1. The Department has appointed Mr. R. T. Spence, formerly Director-General of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, as co-ordinator of its activities during IYDP.

2. The NIHE will continue its policy of adapting houses to the needs of disabled people.

3. The planning service will continue to encourage developers to ensure that designs for new buildings are suitable for disabled people. It has recently issued a leaflet "Access to Public Buildings for the Disabled", and a notice drawing attention to the provisions of sections 4–8 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1978.

4. The Department, in consultation with the Transport Users Committee, keeps under review the provision of facilities on public transport. Northern Ireland will be included on the tour programme for the mobile exhibition designed to encourage disabled people to make use of public transport.

Department of Finance Northern Ireland

1. In planning the design of Government and other buildings for which it is responsible the Department seeks to ensure that, where reasonable and practicable, these buildings have suitable access arrangements. The Department has recently initiated a modest programme of improving access to existing buildings.

Department of Manpower Services Northern Ireland

1. The Department will liaise with the Northern Ireland IYDP Voluntary Committee on all matters touching on the employment and training of disabled people. It will continue to promote the "Fit for Work Award Scheme" and arrange presentations to employers.

2. In co-operation with the seven Northern Ireland district advisory committees for the disabled, the Department will conduct a feasibility study on the setting up of sheltered industrial groups.

3. A pilot scheme to provide careers guidance for disabled school leavers will be set up in the west of the Province with the local health and social services and education boards.

4. During the year the Department and district advisory committees will review the quota requirements for the employment of disabled people.

Department of Health and Social Services Northern Ireland

1. The Northern Ireland Council of Social Service has, at the suggestion of the Department, set up a committee to stimulate and co-ordinate activities by the voluntary sector throughout the year. The Department will make a contribution to the council's operating expenses.

2. The Department expects to publish in the course of the year the report of a household survey of disabled people in Northern Ireland. The report will contain information on the needs of disabled people which will be taken into account by both the statutory agencies and voluntary bodies in planning their activities.

3. The Department has encouraged the health and social services boards to play an active role in the events of IYDP.

4. The Department will publish in 1981 a new edition of its booklet "Help for the Handicapped": a guide to benefits and services.