A REPORT published by the Citizens’ Information Board has highlighted the difficulties that people are experiencing with transport and access to social services in Clare.
The study, based on direct feedback from the public, was carried out by the Ennis Citizens’ Information Service and shows the importance of building a service based around the needs of the public.
A briefing session on the report entitled Getting There – Transport and Access to Social Services, was presented at the Temple Gate Hotel on Tuesday.
According to Paul Woulfe, manager with the Citizens’ Information Service, the report highlights difficulties encountered by some people in getting information on transport options and access to services for people with disabilities.
The session included presentations from Nick McMahon of Clare Accessible Transport and Dermot Hayes, network support officer with People with Disabilities Ireland.
“The report outlines issues that transport users have encountered with public transport, including access to transport in some areas, difficulties experienced by some people in getting information on transport options and access to services for people with disabilities. One of the cases in the report tells how a woman, whose husband has a disability, contacted her local Citizens’ Information Service, as she was finding it difficult to cope due to caring and financial pressures.
“The couple’s application for a Motorised Transport Grant was turned down on the basis that ‘an applicant must be seeking to obtain or retain employment, have secured a place in full-time education or be eligible to participate in a FÁS course’.
“There is no reference to the payment of the grant in exceptional circumstances, such as this couple faced, who live in a very isolated location and who are impeded from using public transport,” Mr Woulfe explained.
Mayor of Clare, Tony Mulcahy said that as a parent of a child with an intellectual disability and a long-time supporter of various disability advocacy services, he is “cogently aware” of the critical role played by transport schemes in combating social exclusion.
“It is vitally important in this country that we change our mindset regarding the importance of putting in place supports for those wishing to access social services but who are currently unable to do so due to inadequacies in the transportation network. How can it be in 2010 that a fundamentally basic requirement of low-level access to vehicles operating in our public transport system is not being catered for in parts of rural Ireland?” he asked.
He said that Clare County Council supports any initiative that aims to redress the continuing poor accessibility of some public transport, particularly outside the main urban areas of the county.
“Furthermore, the council is committed to carrying out a wide range of accessibility works in towns and villages throughout the county. This includes the improvement of existing and development of additional disabled car parking facilities, as well as the provision of drop kerbing and tactile paving on footpaths throughout Clare,” he commented.
On behalf of the council, he expressed his opposition to any plans to downgrade rural transport programmes in County Clare.
“Last September, I addressed a street protest held in Ennis Town Centre in relation to a proposal by An Bord Snip Nua to end the Rural Transport Programme. The McCarthy Report advocated the total abolition of the rural transport programme. This recommendation was made without due consideration being given to the considerable effect that such a cut would have on the lives of many thousands of people around Ireland.
“While the future of the Rural Transport Programme has been secured since this protest, we must continue to highlight, both at local and national level, the requirement for further investment in such schemes. The simple fact is that any drop in the level of investment in such schemes will have a detrimental impact on rural communities throughout Clare,” the mayor added.