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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 0°C

Minister for Disabilities launches public transport initiative for people with autism

Minister for State Anne Rabbitte said she ‘expects ministers to have a very open door’ for her when she seeks a disability package in the next budget.

MINISTER OF STATE with responsibility for Disability and Integration, Anne Rabbitte, has launched the beginning of a collaboration between the National Transport Authority and the national charity for people with autism, AsIAm.

The “Prepare Me AsIAm for Public Transport” initiative will see Dublin Bus, Irish Rail and Bus Éireann consult with families of autistic people through AsIAm on suggestions for making public transport more inclusive.

Speaking at the launch today, Minister Rabbitte said:

“It’s incredible how understanding the staff are and this will give the confidence to the  parents so that they know they can use public transport, that’s the important message here. As an organization, the NTA are really open to ensuring it’s an inclusive service.”

Rabbitte also praised Irish Rail for providing quiet carriages with noise-cancelling headphones for people with sensory needs.

The minister also told reporters that she will be approaching Minister for Finance Michael McGrath for a comprehensive disability package in the next budget.

“It’s not just a health issue, there’s a social piece, there’s an educational piece, there’s a transport piece, but disability is about equity of access. So I expect all senior ministers to have a very open door to me when I approach them,” she said.

“I’m looking for a disability package. It has to be about respite, residential. The mobility allowance piece would be a big piece for me as well, in the disability package budget that I will be bringing forward with the support of Mr. McGrath.”

Rabbitte added that she would support staff in Section 38 facilities, long-stay residential support services for disabled people which are provided on behalf of the HSE, being paid as much as HSE employees.

“We have seen far more children needing to access residential spaces, under 18 years of age than we possibly would have seen in the past,” she said.

“The level of unmet need is absolutely huge. And in actual fact, we seem to be just continuously responding to emergencies as opposed to building capacity into the system.”

Rabbitte added that she remained supportive of a Labour measure brought forward last month to address the number of parents who have had to pay private practitioners to assess their children for what their special needs are, due to lengthy HSE backlogs.

Rabbitte agreed that unless regional assessment teams were up and running by 1 August, she would approach government colleagues to pay for assessments of needs of children waiting more than three months.

“I said very clearly that we need six regional assessment hubs to be stood up to clear the backlog of assessment of needs. And if that is not done, I will clearly look at supporting families who have to go private.”

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