Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) member, FORUM Connemara Local Development Company have met with Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Anne Rabbitte TD to discuss the work of FORUM Connemara CLG and in particular the success of the Ability Programme. The Ability Programme assists young people with disabilities to move closer to employment. There are concerns for the future of Ability as the current programme is due to end in June 2021.  Ability has an overall budget of up to €16m from 2018 to 2021, is co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Department of Social Protection (DSP), and administered by Pobal.

FORUM Connemara is one of 49 nationwide ILDN members operating a number of government funded programmes that assist people in their Community including the LEADER Programme, the Ability Programme, work activation schemes including RSS, TUS and Community Employment, an Adolescent Support Programme, a social care programme, a Rural Recreation Programme for County Galway, and an agri-environmental scheme called FORUM Farming.

FORUM Connemara is one of 27 organisations delivering the Ability Programme 11 of which are ILDN members. Ability focuses on bringing young people with disabilities between the ages of 15 and 29 closer to the labour market.  The programme targets young people who are not currently work ready using a range of person-centred supports. This type of work assists young people to identify and follow progression routes based on both their potential and their needs. As a result, the programme promotes positive pathways into education, training, and employment for participants.

During her visit to FORUM, Minister Rabbitte met with young people who were able to discuss with her the benefits of undertaking work placements, driving lessons to access transport, educational & training courses and voluntary work.   Census 2016 figures show that the employment rate for people with disabilities of working age is 36.5% compared to a rate of 72.8% for people of working age without a disability.