26 February 2018
By Mary Bermingham
Access Officers need to be more… accessible!
A Cork Fine Gael Senator has said there needs to be clarity from Local Authorities in relation to the role and responsibilities of their Access Officers.
Senator Colm Burke said: “The Access Officer should take up a more proactive role in assisting those with disabilities to navigate the services provided by the Local Authority, which is not the case across the board.
“Under section 26 of the Disability Act 2005 there is an obligation placed on each Local Authority to appoint an Access Officer. Their role is to provide and co-ordinate the provision of assistance and guidance to people with disabilities in accessing services provided in the local authority area.
“There is a misunderstanding in some of the Councils over the role and service that the Access Officer should be providing. In some Local Authorities the Access Officer only addresses issues in relation to ensuring that there is disability access to public buildings, services or information.
“There are a number of Local Authorities who are not giving the role of Access Officer the priority it deserves.
“In 2011 the then Government published the National Housing Strategy for People with Disabilities. It sets out a broad framework for the delivery of Housing for people with disabilities through mainstream housing policy.
“The vision of the strategy is to facilitate access for people with disabilities to the appropriate range of housing and support services delivered in an integrated and sustainable manner that promotes equality of opportunity, individual choice and independent living.
“It is not acceptable for people who need this service to find different levels of assistance in different Local Authorities. The end result is a Postcode Lottery, where people in some Local Authority areas receive greater assistance than others.
“Clarity is needed over the function of the role. I intend on writing to every local authority to ask them to clarify the role and functions of their Access Officers,” the Fine Gael Senator said.