Recruitment crisis in the disability sector

By Ailiadh Walsh

When speaking to staff recently who work within the disability and caring sectors, it has become apparent that there is a huge shortage in recruiting staff, and this, in turn, is preventing the effective running of these vital services.

report published by The Wheel and TASC in June 2023 highlighted the dire consequences of pay inequity: “Turnover and vacancies are increasingly forcing organisations to reduce hours and cancel services because they lack the staff to deliver them.” 

The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) started an email campaign during the summer to call for action to address this crisis, which is endangering the services provided to disabled individuals, as these services are being harmed by persistent problems with recruitment and retention in Section 39 disability-funded groups.

A strike due to take place was suspended on 17 October, 2023, following the agreement between all parties at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). A proposal was agreed upon that acknowledges that workers in Sections 39, 10, and 56 deserve pay equality.

The suspended industrial action centred on a pay dispute dating back to 2010. While pay for their HSE counterparts has been restored, workers in Section 39 (health and disability services), Section 56 (services to children), and Section 10 (homeless services) have not.

The Government acknowledged that workers’ pay in these services had fallen behind equivalent and comparable grades in public service organisations.

Its members have balloted this proposal, and the unions will meet with the WRC and the Government in the first week of December to discuss the ballot results.

Speaking to some union members recently, the initial feedback is that they are not satisfied with this proposal but acknowledge that this is a step in the right direction and that much more work is needed to aid the recruitment crisis. A swift and effective input is required from the Government to avoid further disruption of these vital services.

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