Adams calls for Funding for WALK Peer project
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams is urging the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Disabilities Finian McGrath to “take whatever steps are necessary to keep open the Louth WALK Peer project which is threatened with closure at the end of July.”
The Louth TD has written to both Ministers. In his response today (Friday June 10th) Minister McGrath’s Private Secretary confirmed that he had raised the issue with “Minister Varadkar this week and that the Minister has also met with his senior official's in the Department of Social Protection only yesterday to discuss this serious issue”.
The Louth TD added; “Given that the work of the working group set up to look into the future of DACT is still ongoing, and that no decisions have been taken on the future activation schemes, the Minister should provide funding for WALK Peer until the working group has concluded its evaluation, and decided how to move forward the provision of supports for this group of disabled citizens.”
Gerry Adams said:
“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. This aims to build skills among young people with special needs who are aged between 16 and 19. This was a stopgap measure intended to provide time for securing the future of the project as part of a ten year awaited employment strategy for people with disabilities. This never transpired.
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 very positive outcomes were achieved by all who participated in it. WALK Peer has proven to be a very successful in ensuring that young people with disabilities are afforded equal access to employment, education and training.
In his PQ response to me the Minister reveals that the Department commissioned an independent evaluation of the programme “to identify which aspects of the projects would be capable, where appropriate, of being mainstreamed in the delivery of supports to people with disabilities into the future.”
According to the Minister this report is currently being considered by an inter-Departmental working group, “chaired by the Department of Social Protection and comprising of the National Disability Authority and representatives of Departments who have commitments under the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for people with disabilities”.
The group has been asked to identify the next steps in relation to Disability Activation schemes.
Given that the work of the working group set up to look into the future of DACT is still on-going, and that no decisions have been taken on the future activation schemes, the Minister should provide funding for WALK Peer until the working group has concluded its evaluation, and decided how to move forward the provision of supports for this group of disabled citizens.”