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Funding of Disability Services: Motion [Private Members]

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 1

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Funding of Disability Services: Motion [Private Members]

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

— the fact that there are over 600,000 people with disabilities in Ireland;

— the deep concern among those with disabilities that services affecting them may be cut or reduced further; and

— that it is unfair and unjust to cut services for people with disabilities;
notes pledges in the programme for Government to:
— ensure that the quality of life of people with disabilities is enhanced and that resources allocated, reach the people who need them; and

— facilitate people with disabilities in achieving a greater level of participation in employment, training and education; and
calls on the Government to provide the appropriate funding and services necessary to honour all its commitments to people with disabilities.

I wish to share my time with Deputies O'Dea, Browne, Ó Cúiv and McConalogue.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher The reason we tabled this motion is that there are great difficulties in the area of intellectual and physical disability. There are major concerns among service providers and users of those services. There is no point in us pretending there have not been cuts to the area of services for people with disabilities, both physical and intellectual. There clearly have been cuts in terms of provision of care and services. We have had repeated statements from the Ministers concerned that front-line services will be protected, but the Minister acknowledged in the context of the budgetary statements and announcements last year and the health service delivery plan that there would be cuts to front-line services in intellectual and physical disabilities.

I attended a meeting on Saturday in Our Lady of Good Counsel national school in Ballincollig. It is very concerned because of the reconfiguration being proposed by the Government in terms of mapping services and ensuring the services and supports are in place such that everybody has access to the service. Quite clearly, if the Government continues as it is, there will be very few services to share among anybody. There is considerable despondency, anger and frustration. Exceptional efforts have been made over recent years to provide services for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. It has been acknowledged that we have made some ground but the idea that because we are now in difficult financial straits, we would row back on any of the advances we have made for the most vulnerable in our communities and society is very distasteful.

We are talking about the service providers being asked to find further efficiencies. Everybody accepts that efficiencies should be to the fore in ensuring there is a quality service and that it is delivered efficiently. However, they are being asked to pay the increments out of the savings. There has been no additional allocation from the HSE to the service providers to fund the increments awarded in the context of the Croke Park agreement. When we talk about a 3% or 5% cut in the provision of services in real terms, we are talking about multiples of that simply because they do not have the ability to increase the efficiencies and at the same time fund their commitments in the context of Croke Park. If we are to be serious and fair on the issue of providing services to people with physical and intellectual disabilities, the very least we should do is honour in terms of funding an increase in allocations this year to cover the increments awarded under Croke Park. Otherwise, we will have a continual diminishing of services required by many people. We are talking about up to 18% of people who have a disability of one kind or another. Many of these people can get on and work their way through life but there are a huge number of people who are completely dependent on their families and the State for support. Unfortunately, the State is reneging on its clear obligation to fund the services and provide the supports for the many people who need them.

We were at the meeting to which I referred and one thing we heard continually from parents of children with physical and intellectual disabilities was that they were tired and burnt out. They were fighting the system and consistently up against it. Every time they thought they were taking a step forward, the State forced them to take two steps back. That clearly is something that is unacceptable in modern times.

I want the Minister of State to put a strong emphasis on services for people with physical and intellectual disabilities, provide a clear pathway of funding and ensure service providers do not incur the cost of the increments awarded to employees under the Croke Park agreement and upheld by the Labour Court and Labour Relations Commission by providing additional funding to cover those increments. Let us introduce efficiencies in the system and make sure we map the resources and apply them in a way that is fair to everybody - those in the specialist streams and those in the mainstream. If one continually divides these scarce resources, one will reach a point where they benefit nobody because they will not receive the specialist training in terms of occupational, physical and speech therapy, for example. Clearly, that is what is happening.

Our motion is very simple and straightforward. It asks that the Government lives up to its commitments as outlined in the programme for Government - nothing more, nothing less. It is simply what it said it would do in the programme for Government.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Hear, hear.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher We are not even asking the Government to live up to the commitments it made before the election given the wild abandoning of such promises made prior to the election. We are asking just for what is contained in the programme for Government. That is a fair and genuine approach from this side of the House to try to encourage the Government to provide the resources that are needed.

There has been a rowing back and almost an attack on people who are vulnerable and need State services. Examples include the issue of domiciliary care allowance and the placement of people leaving second level. There is genuine concern and we have raised this in the Dáil time and again. I know the Minister of State is aware of it. There is considerable concern that the 700 people who will be leaving school next year cannot be guaranteed a place.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch They never were.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher They cannot be guaranteed a place. The reason prior to this was that funding took account of the number of people who were going to leave and funding was provided accordingly. Regardless of whether the place was guaranteed or not, the funding was in place to ensure they would have those services. That funding has been cut and there is a diminishing budget, which is why the Government cannot guarantee places. It simply does not have the resources applied to the service providers. The key reason for that is that the budget last year was completely flawed, a failed entity from the word go and not sustainable throughout the year. This was exemplified in the decisions of the Minister and the HSE to take special needs assistants from people, resulting in protests outside Government Buildings in September and now the attack on home helps and home care packages.

The critical issue is that the resources were not allocated. The savings and income streams identified in the budget this time last year could not be achieved from the word go. We have highlighted that continually. In this budget, the Government must put a strong emphasis on providing the necessary resources that sustain services and provide opportunity and hope to people with intellectual and physical disabilities. If we continue down the path we are going, we will leave behind a generation of people who need our help and support. We are also asking parents to make considerable sacrifices, and they do so willingly, day in and day out, but the State is not willing at this late stage at least to stand up to its commitments in the programme for Government.

We have a situation where the HSE is writing to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The State is asking voluntary charitable groups to assist families who are under financial pressure. It is unbelievable that we are in this situation. In the 24 hours before the budget, I ask the Minister or Minister of State to make an impassioned plea to provide funding that lives up to no more and no less than the commitment the Government made in the programme for Government to ensure people have adequate supports and services and places will be available for the 700 plus people who will leave second level next July. Otherwise, the Government is reneging on its commitment and on a basic commitment to decency in society.

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