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

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Áine Collins: Information on Áine Collins Zoom on Áine Collins]  The changes the Minister wishes to introduce are consistent with his overall approach to health policy. This will be achieved by shifting choice and control from professionals and administrators to where it rightfully belongs, namely, the individual with a disability. To achieve that there must be a co-ordinated approach from many Departments. The Department of Education and Skills already spends 15% of its budget in support of children with special educational needs. The new training agency, SOLAS, must pay special attention to encouraging people with disabilities to participate in its mainstream training options while continuing to offer specially tailored courses for people with disabilities.

The Department of Social Protection plays a necessary part in providing support services. In addition to basic payment supports it provides an extensive range of income and work related supports for people with disabilities. More work must be done with employers to encourage them to participate in these schemes, and the wage subsidy must be significant enough to ensure their participation.

Community employment schemes offer many people with disabilities an opportunity to work and partake in local community activities. Local authorities must be more proactive in providing suitable housing that would allow people with disabilities the dignity of independent living. All these approaches from different providers must be overseen and co-ordinated to produce the most inclusive and efficient results at local level.

Some service providers such as St. Joseph's in Charleville are lean, efficient and deliver services far beyond the amount of funding they receive. Those organisations cannot be subjected to across the board cuts such as those affecting State run facilities.

We must examine also the new approach to the way we deliver multidisciplinary services to special needs children between the ages of five and 18. That greatly worries me. We have a duty to evaluate and ensure that there will not be a negative impact on these children. The value of the relationship between a therapist and an intellectually challenged child or young adult is essential and we must ensure that is not diluted.

I wish to refer briefly to cystic fibrosis and what happened in St. Vincent's Hospital last week and this week which was a perfect example of the intention being good but the delivery not happening on the ground. It is a subject very close to my heart as Members will know I have a daughter with cystic fibrosis. Thirty-four beds were built for isolation for cystic fibrosis patients. Twenty of those beds were dedicated full-time to cystic fibrosis patients and 14 were to be prioritised. I do not understand the reason the special delivery unit in the Health Service Executive when we know that people with cystic fibrosis suffer greatly at this time of the year when infection is at its highest, could not have allocated the beds to be isolated for this time of year.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall I thank Deputy Kelleher for bringing forward the motion. I wish to be associated with the statement by Deputy Áine Collins on cystic fibrosis. This has been a problem for a long time yet we do appear to be able to address it to facilitate those who suffer from that disease. Many years ago I saw the problems faced by a next door neighbour of mine who had the disease. At that time we appeared to be on the point of dealing with it but it did not happen, and we are in the same place now in that regard. Something must be done because we cannot have patients going into hospitals unless they are put in isolation units etc. I am not an expert on the disease but I am aware of the suffering of families because of the problems not being addressed. I ask the Minister to outline the position on that in his reply because it must be addressed.

Regarding the national issue, we have had numerous representations from the various organisations on cuts to services. Those organisations are at the coalface in terms of trying to keep the services going but it is not feasible to keep going back to them in respect of cuts because they cannot continue to offer the services if we continue to cut their funding. Deputy Creed spoke about the possibility of some not pulling their weight in that regard but everyone I know is pulling their weight. I refer to KARE, in my constituency. I have spoken to the chief executive officer of KARE, Christy Lynch, on many occasions. I visited Moore Abbey in recent weeks also. The services those people provide on a daily basis are unbelievable. They go above and beyond the call of duty in many instances and work continuously to try to meet the challenges they face. We have groups that are supportive of those associations which try to raise funding day in, day out to maintain the services. We must realise that we cannot put any more pressure upon that system.

I ask the Minister of State to outline the position in regard to thalidomide. From minutes and documentation I have seen I am aware that is an issue on which decisions are awaited but as is the case with cystic fibrosis we cannot continue to wait for decisions to be made because the unfortunate people who suffered that tragedy many years ago are getting old. They are unable to provide for themselves. No one is providing for them because of the need for special facilities in their homes. I visited a house in which the person requires special facilities but there is no one to give that to them. There is no mechanism available to them yet we are waiting on decisions to be made. We must move on these issues and work with the two organisations to try to bring the issue to a conclusion and give direction in that regard. There is little use in waiting on the results of court cases because unfortunately many of these people could die in that period. We must face up to the challenge of working with these people to try to get a positive and a sympathetic solution for them.

The value for money and policy review states that choice and control will be transferred from professionals and administrators to individuals with a disability and their families. That is a dangerous move. I can envisage people with a disability being isolated because when the red tape starts to come in it will be said that they are now in control of their own destiny. That is not a positive move in regard to respecting the rights of those with disabilities to have equality in the way they live their lives. I ask that this aspect of the value for money and policy review be revisited.

Deputy Eamonn Maloney: Information on Eamonn Maloney Zoom on Eamonn Maloney I listened to the debate this morning and yesterday and I would be right in saying that in principle all Members elected to this House would support the view that disability services should be adequately funded. There is no dispute among us in that regard.

It is important that every effort possible is made to limit the level of the reduction in the budget for disability services. It is important also that the 3.7% reduction indicated in the report is offset by savings. That would be a progressive move.

I share the view expressed by others that it is a fundamental requirement that we protect front-line services for those with disabilities. That is paramount.

I listened to the contributions this morning and yesterday and it is politically dishonest for some people to claim that it is possible to protect all services in a country which was faced with bankruptcy and is only now in the early stages of stability. It is dishonest to say that no services would be affected, and we should be straight with the people who avail of these services.

Another myth was peddled by some Members of this House. It was aimed at Fianna Fáil. Some of it was correct but some of it was incorrect.

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