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 Header Item Order of Business (Continued)
 Header Item Funding for Disability Services: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Noel Grealish: Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish] This will have a serious effect on local natural stocks of sea trout and wild salmon. When does the Taoiseach expect the inland fisheries (modernisation and consolidation) Bill to come before the Dáil? I hope the legislation will address the serious concerns among local anglers and fishermen about the proposed fish farm.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny We should have a discussion about this matter. I understand the site in question was chosen on the basis of information on tides and sea lanes provided by the Marine Institute. As the Deputy is aware, the location is a considerable distance from shore. I was surprised to see one public body, Inland Fisheries Ireland, objecting to a proposal from another body. Be that as it may, I do not have a date for the publication of the Bill in question but I will ensure the Deputy is informed of the current position regarding its preparation.

Funding for Disability Services: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

  The following motion was moved by Deputy Billy Kelleher on Tuesday, 4 December 2012:

That Dáil Éireann:

recognises:
— 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.

  Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“recognises:

— this Government’s commitments to people with a disability in the programme for Government, including greater participation in employment, training and education in accordance with a revitalised national disability strategy; and

— that around €1.4 billion will be spent in 2012 on health and personal social services for people with disabilities – this is in addition to transfers to people with disabilities from the Departments of Social Protection and Education and Skills and other Government services;

notes that the Health Service Executive, HSE, national service plan for 2012 has been drawn up against the backdrop of significant funding challenges and that while the allocation for specialist disability services has been reduced by 3.7% nationally, in 2012 the level of service reduction will be less than the level of budget reduction as a result of the efficiencies that will be delivered;

acknowledges that some reductions in disability services have been unavoidable in 2012 and welcomes moves by the HSE to tailor such reductions in such a way that minimises the impact on service users and their families as much as possible; and

notes:

— that within the serious resource constraints imposed by the current budgetary and fiscal conditions, the Minister for Health is doing all possible to ensure that as much protection as possible is afforded to the disability sector and the social care area as a whole; and

— the publication of the value for money and policy review of disability services in July 2012, which includes recommendations to ultimately move to individualised funding for disability services so as to provide greater choice and control for people with disabilities.”

- (Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch).

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy Funding for disability services is a touchstone for the dishonesty of the Government. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, and leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, is strongly identified with this issue, having described it as his priority in government. He has reneged on the commitments the Government gave on disability funding. I propose to share with the House details of a case in point, which is outrageous. On 22 October 2012, one of my constituents received a letter from the Health Service Executive indicating that, following a review of the person's care needs, services continued to be approved through the home care package scheme and there would be no change in the services provided through the scheme. Only one month later, on 28 November, the same individual was again informed that, following a review of care needs, services continued to be approved through the home care package. However, the home help aspect of the package was decreased by five hours per week or one hour per day between Monday and Friday. The individual in question is wheelchair bound, cannot stand unaided, does not have any use of one hand, has limited use of the other hand and is unable to cook, get into or out of bed or attend to personal and toilet needs. It is an outrage that an individual in this position has been deprived of hours under the home help scheme. The decision is an indication of the extent to which the Government has debased the health service and demonstrates the dishonesty of the promises made during the general election campaign.

In recent days, I have also been contacted by a 94 year old gentleman whose home help hours have been reduced from five to three hours, a lady of 93 years whose home help hours have been reduced from five to one and one quarter hours and a gentleman of 75 years who recently suffered a bad fall and whose hours have been reduced from five to one and a half hours. These three cases give an indication of the disgraceful manner in which disabled people are being treated by the Government. I support the motion.

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan It is widely accepted that marginal increases in funding to disability services during the so-called boom were offset against an historically low starting point. Budgets since 2009 have brought about a major reduction in health expenditure and, subsequently, cuts in funding to disability services. The impacts of these cuts range from the postponement of the development of existing services and reductions in expenditure on capital items to the non-replacement of staff and reductions in new service development. People with disabilities are now two and a half times less likely to be employed and more than twice as likely to be at risk of poverty. These figures refer to the official measures of poverty. If the Government continues with its current measures, the impact on the quality of life of the 13% of the population who have disabilities will be nothing short of catastrophic.

While the programme for Government contains a promise to ensure the quality of life of people with disability will be enhanced, budgetary measures introduced since the Government came to power have worsened the position for a sector that has experienced cuts in funding of approximately 20% in recent years. In addition to experiencing a deterioration in the services and supports they need, those who require disability and mental health services are also living under the weight of general cutbacks and restrictions implemented as a result of the recession. They and their families are, if one likes, experiencing a twofold recession.

Unfortunately, I only have time to refer to a small number of statistics relating to disability services. For example, 14% of all pensioners with disabilities do not receive any support services thanks largely to cuts in home help hours. The Irish Wheelchair Association reports the astonishing statistic that the unmet annual need for personal assistant services for people with physical and sensory disabilities alone is in excess of 520,000 hours. Further, one in four young adults with intellectual disabilities or autism who left secondary school this year did not have any further education, training or day service replacement in September. In addition, the waiting list for residential care among people with intellectual disabilities currently stands at approximately 4,000. Decisions made this week will have devastating effects on the quality of life of people with disabilities long past the lifetime of this Government.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins With the budget only a couple of hours away, this motion provides a good opportunity for Deputies to highlight the issue of services for people with disabilities. The Fianna Fáil Party has taken a politically cynical and disingenuous approach to this matter given that it was responsible for many of the cuts of recent years. For example, the previous Fianna Fáil led Government reduced expenditure on disability services by 10% in its final two budgets.

The Government amendment "acknowledges that some reductions in disability services have been unavoidable in 2012" and states the "Minister for Health is doing all possible to ensure that as much protection as possible is afforded to the disability sector and the social care area as a whole". This will not give confidence to people with disabilities that it will protect their services.

As Deputy Halligan noted, earlier funding increases for disability services must be viewed in the context of the very low base from which they started. The personal assistant service was first introduced 25 years ago and has been developed in recent years. Between 600,000 and 700,000 people with disabilities rely on disability services to help them get up in the morning, eat, dress, go to work and play a role in society. They need to hear from the Government that funding for their services will be protected in this and future budgets. Without such an assurance, they will experience stress and anxiety as they worry every day about where the next cut will come from and whether their personal assistant hours will be reduced. Cuts in funding for people with disability and other vulnerable persons should be stopped. This funding must be ring-fenced and guaranteed.

The Government must ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Ratification is part and parcel of the disability strategy. I learned with sadness today that the US Senate decided not to ratify the convention yesterday, which was a bad day for people with disability in the United States.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy One of the features of this Government has been its habit of redefining language. As words no longer have their intended meaning, people must listen and reinterpret them. Nowhere can this be seen better than in the areas of disability and mental health. The most common phrase the Government uses to describe its ultimate objective is that it will "protect the vulnerable", yet domiciliary care payments have been severely cut.


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