UNISON Northern Ireland

International Day of Persons with Disabilities: UNISON Calls on Northern Ireland Executive to Act

Today (3rd December) marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities. UNESCO’s theme on this day is: “Leadership and participation of persons with a disability towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world.” Today also sees the first ever sitting of the NI Assembly’s Disabled People’s Parliament.

UNISON, the largest public sector trade union in Northern Ireland is calling on all governments and the Northern Ireland Executive for greater inclusion of people with disabilities in society, including covid-19 response and recovery.

One in 5 people have a disability in Northern Ireland. They are more likely to be unemployed, socially isolated, reliant on social security benefits, paid less in employment and, be in poverty with higher mortality rates. This has been compounded over the last 18 months as people with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the health and social and economic consequences of the covid-19 pandemic.

Joe McCusker, UNISON Regional Organiser, says: “As the Northern Ireland Executive’s attention has turned to focus on post covid-19 rebuilding and recovery of the economy, I urge the Northern Ireland Executive and the Disabled People’s Parliament to use this as an opportunity to engage with disabled people, have them participate in decision making so that they can, going forward, truly benefit from economic, social, political and cultural life in Northern Ireland. For this to happen, the NI Executive need to strengthen universal access to health and social care, education, employment opportunities and other socio-cultural opportunities for disabled people. Any cuts to public services to deal with the Executive’s financial challenges by our politicians will be especially damaging to disabled people and flies in the face of the message from UNESCO on this day. The first step the NI Executive can take is to fully incorporate ‘The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities’ into legislation in Northern Ireland.”