Promoting Rights of People with Disabilities


A regional event was held on Monday 30 September for Non-Executive and Executive Directors and Senior Managers on two notable legislative advances which have a significant impact on the provision of health and social care. The event was organised by the regional HSC Equality leads as one of the actions committed to within their Disability Action Plan. Mr Kevin Doherty, Interim Chief Executive of Disability Action, performed the role of Chair of the proceedings.

A number of key speakers shared their expertise on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The Convention explains that all disabled people have and should be able to enjoy the same human rights as other people. It sets an international benchmark for the human rights of disabled people. The areas covered by the Convention include: health, education, employment, access to justice, personal security, independent living and access to information.

Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission NIHRC, Professor Michael O’Flaherty, and the Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission Northern Ireland (ECNI), Doctor Michael Wardlow, explained how the ECNI and NIHRC are jointly designated as the independent mechanism to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the Convention. It is their responsibility to look at how the Convention is being implemented in Northern Ireland, and report on this to the UN Committee.

Mr Paul McGowan, Disability Equality Officer from Mencap provided insight into his personal experience as a person with a learning disability and how he actively works to improve the experience of other disabled people in the workplace or when they are receiving services, and how he has really made a difference.

Another pertinent piece of draft legislation is the Mental Capacity Bill which seeks to protect the dignity and human rights of those with a disability and those unable to make significant decisions for themselves. Incorporating the principles laid out in the Bamford Review, this Bill seeks to revoke the Mental Health Order 1986 and have one law encompassing Mental Health and Mental Capacity and could be hugely progressive in terms of protection and promotion of the human rights of disabled people. Mr Patrick McConville and Ms Alison McCaffrey, DHSSPSNI colleagues who have been responsible for drafting the Bill, provided a presentation on the proposed legislation and how the law could bring into play greater safeguards to ensure that people’s rights are upheld and they are supported to make decisions about their health and social care.

65 HSC representatives took time out of their busy schedules to come from across the region to hear about this important legislation and the inherent implications as to how we provide health and social care.

For further information or a copy of the DHSSPS presentation on Mental Capacity Bill please contact Orla Barron, Health and Social Inequalities Manager on (028) 9504 6567.