Is Everyone With Specialist Needs Catered For?

People with autism living in rural areas are finding it more and more difficult to get the specialist treatment that they desperately need.

Raymond McCartney spoke passionately about the need to ensure that all funding is ‘closely scrutinised and equality proofed’ and said that it was imperative that there are sufficient specialist therapists in all regions. Gregory Campbell countered by highlighting the difficulty in attracting therapists with specialist skill sets away from metropolitan areas – a problem that needs remedied.

Should specialist therapists be given bonuses to attract them to rural areas? Is it fair to expect people in need of specialist treatment to travel to the larger cities?

More Spontaneity In Assembly Sessions

How can Plenary sessions become more interesting? A member of the Derry audience pointed out how difficult it is to maintain an interest in watching Plenary sessions.

The panel agreed that this was a problem. David Ford lamented the ‘dull speeches, dull questions and even duller answers’. Gregory Campbell pointed out that it is difficult for questions to be topical considering the time departments require to prepare answers but the Speaker, William Hay, did offer some hope by revealing plans to make Question Time more topical and less regimented.

Would more lively debates and spontaneity encourage you to watch Assembly Plenary sessions? Are the any MLAs you find more interesting than others? Should our MLAs make an effort to ‘entertain’?

Are Issues For The Partially Sighted Being Addressed?

Why are the 48,000 blind and partially sighted people of Northern Ireland receiving hospital appointment cards in small, faint print?

Good news from Raymond McCartney who confirmed that the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, has made a commitment to address this issue. The possibility of Assembly publications being produced in large print, Braille and audio for the visually and hearing impaired is a matter that still needs to be addressed by the Assembly Commission.

How long will it be before the sight and hearing impaired can receive Assembly publications? Are the resources offered by the Assembly website sufficient in the meantime?

Temperatures Rise Over Water Charges

When water charges are introduced, will this be reflected in a reduction of domestic rates?

Gregory Campbell confirmed that water charges will be visible and separate from domestic rates while David Ford expressed his dismay that the time spent deferring the new charges haven’t led to a new system which will fairly determine how much everyone should pay for their water.

Mark Durkan was against changing the current system and was upset that there was no individual vote on the impending charges, rather, it was included as part of a new budget.

Are you happy to pay water charges if your rates come down? Are you concerned that domestic rates will not come down in proportion?

Panel Stumped On Progress Of Report

When asked about the progress of the ‘Promoting Social Inclusion Disability Report’ that began in 2004 no member of the panel could provide an update.

David Ford deplored these circumstances which meant that groups which aren’t constantly shouting for action ‘get neglected’.

Mark Durkan sparked further debate, calling for a civic forum that could flag issues such as these and encourage action. Gregory Campbell poured cold water on this idea suggesting that civic forums are ineffective because not enough people show up.

Are civic forums ineffective? Do they just need better advertising and publicity? Would you go to one and offer your opinion?

Does The Decision Making Process Need Streamlined?

A member of the Derry audience expressed his opinion that, while the devolved Assembly was a step in the right direction, there was too much procrastination getting in the way of progress. By way of examples, the audience member highlighted the debacle over the proposed national stadium and the current state of the education system.

Raymond McCartney agreed that the process had been slow at times, saying ‘if you can’t make decisions, you disadvantage people’ but acknowledged that there was a determination within the Assembly to display more conviction and within a more appropriate timeframe.

Should the Assembly be getting more done? Can a way be found to break down the stalemates that seem to arise with the big issues?

Statutory Day Care For Post-19 Adults With Special Needs?

When David Ford broached this sensitive subject, he revealed that he believed that the uncertainty in this area was caused by bureaucratic difficulties in shifting the care of young adults with special needs from social services to the education department.

Should priority be given to making sure that greater coordination between departments avoids similar problems in the future?