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Funding of Disability Services: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 1

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  8 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív] At the moment, they provide services for 943 people, comprising 428 children and 515 adults. That does not include the 386 children in the Galway early intervention service provided in partnership with the HSE and Enable Ireland. They have had budget cuts of €8.3 million or 18% in the last four years, which totally ignore pay cuts and the pension levy. Therefore these are extra cuts outside the pay cuts because they are paid as public servants.

They have done everything to achieve efficiencies, including restructuring and reducing management and administration posts. Staff posts have been reduced by 98. They have also restructured rosters and have achieved savings of approximately €1 million on the skill mix. Their back office support, that is, human resources, finance, IT and quality, is about 2.61% of budget. The Minister of State can look at her own Department to check how much that back office costs. In my view, 2.61% of the budget is very efficient.

Some 85% of the budget is pay, while 91% of the jobs are exclusively front line. If there is a 5% cut it will require the closure of 24 residential places, which would mean a discharge of 24 people, making them homeless. It would mean the closure of 34 day places and, consequently, individuals would have to remain in residential services at an even greater cost. It would mean the loss of 506 respite beds and the loss of 4,939 family support hours.

One would have to let 52 staff go but since these are covered by the Croke Park agreement there is no mechanism for doing it, even if the Minister of State wanted to cause all this devastation. They have been benchmarked against a value for money report and the average costs have already been achieved in full. Some 85% of the budget is pay and therefore there are no savings.

There has been a lot of loose talk about extra efficiencies and that they will somehow survive. It is important to understand that whatever savings were there to be made by efficiencies have been made in recent years. Possible savings in shared services which I am very keen on, including amalgamations, would be totally inadequate, slow to implement and insignificant. I have a lot of data from the Department on how little money is being saved from all this quangoitis they told us they would get rid of.

There cannot and must not be any cuts to disability services this year. The easy answer we will get is whether we cut money, and yes we did, but there comes a point when there is no more to cut. There comes a point when an organisation does not have any more to give because it has cut everything that could be cut. Therefore this year it is vital that there is no further reduction to organisations like that.

If the Minister of State goes around the country to other similar organisations dealing with people with moderate or severe disabilities, she will find that story repeated everywhere. This year, no money was provided for school leavers and parents are wondering what will happen to next year's school leavers. That was always looked after until 2012.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch Until 2008.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív We have a decision to make about values. We support the Labour Party in putting the extra 3% on the top rate of self-employed PRSI. If that was done tomorrow, a fair cut could be given to people with disabilities. We will back the Minister of State on this side of the House because we have already said she was right in that particular proposal. In fact, I think we published it first. We do not mind if the Labour Party steals our good ideas, as long as it ensures the most vulnerable in our society are looked after.

Deputy Charlie McConalogue: Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I join with my colleagues, and in particular our spokesperson on health and disability, Deputy Kelleher, in supporting this motion. We are asking the Government to stick to the pledges it made in the programme for Government to protect disability funding and ensure that those who most require such support are provided with it. I remind the Minister of State that the programme for Government is committed to ensuring that the quality of life of people with disabilities is enhanced and that the resources allocated reach those who need them. The programme is also committed to facilitating people with disabilities in order to achieve a greater level of participation in employment, training and education. Unfortunately, however, in the 18 months since taking office we have not seen the Minister of State live up to those commitments.

While we know it is a difficult task in the current environment and these things are not easily done, we are asking the Minister of State to stand by that pledge in the programme for Government to ensure that funding for the disabled is not cut and that they will be supported as necessary. We have put together our own pre-budget submission which does ensure such funding. We accept the fact that there needs to be a €3.5 billion adjustment in the national spend this year, but we have ring-fenced a few important key areas which we feel need to be protected. They are education, mental health services and disability services, which is the subject of our Private Members' motion. We have taken hard decisions elsewhere in the budget in order to achieve the required targets. I do not underestimate the difficulty in putting a budget together but we are asking the Government to ensure that this happens in tomorrow's budget. We should not see the same mistakes being repeated that we have seen recently.

Over the last 12 months many people with disabilities have been concerned about cuts. They have had reason to worry. In last year's budget the Minister attempted to remove the disability allowance from those aged 16 to 18. Fortunately, due to pressure from many Deputies, including many in the Labour Party, that decision was rolled back on. It was not consistent with what had been promised in the programme for Government.

It has become increasingly difficult for the families of those aged under 18 to get the domiciliary care allowance. In the first six months of this year, 63% of all applications for the domiciliary care allowance have been refused. Up to half of applications for children with autism have been refused. Such families have additional strenuous care needs, which are required for their children. In many instances, it makes it more difficult for them to work and carry out everyday duties. The domiciliary care allowance is there to assist them with the support their children need. Unfortunately, the Government has adopted an approach of stealth, making it more difficult for those in need of the payment to receive it.

The position of people leaving secondary education and seeking to continue in further education demonstrates a failure to deliver on promises in the programme for Government.

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