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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 Eamonn Maloney: Information on Eamonn Maloney Zoom on Eamonn Maloney] People point out that the whole of society suffered but sections of society did not suffer, such as the wealthy and those who live in mansions. Others were able to avail of a very attractive subsidy to private schools. In a few hours, some of those raising their voices about the vulnerable will have the opportunity to speak up for the vulnerable in terms of revenue. I refer to those living in mansions or who have availed of lucrative private education subsidies. We will then see who wants to speak loudest for those who are vulnerable. As a supporter of the Government, I look forward to a time when we can protect and improve the service to the disabled.

Deputy Michael P. Kitt: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I commend Deputy Billy Kelleher on tabling the motion and support his call for the Government to provide funding and services necessary to honour its commitment to people with disabilities. As Deputy Kelleher said last night, it is about holding the line and the line is in the programme for Government. It is very important.

We propose that disability services be ring-fenced from any cut. It is a good starting point. As a Deputy from the west of Ireland, I met with organisations such as the Brothers of Charity, Western Care Mayo, which looks after Mayo particularly, and Ability West. The Brothers of Charity have been to the fore in helping families affected by the cuts to disability services. There is great benefit to people in the care of the Brothers of Charity. I received a letter from a mother who talked about her son, who is making a constructive contribution to society and will only improve with continued support. She praises what the Brothers of Charity are doing but she also makes the point that, if there is a withdrawal of funding, it could result in her son regressing. In the past, this has led to the intervention of the Garda Síochána, the courts and other State agencies because there is no focus or outlet for him and others in this situation. That mother and many who avail of the services of the Brothers of Charity are concerned at the proposed reduction in budgets.

Ability West is an organisation that has provided services for 50 years to children and adults with intellectual disabilities in the west. It was previously known as the Galway County Association for Mentally Handicapped Children. It told me that this year there was a cutback of €836,454 in its budget. It tried to do everything possible to minimise costs and maximise efficiencies but the CEO of the organisation said in a letter to parents that the organisation has now reached the point where the scope for savings from efficiencies that would not have an impact on services no longer exists.

Other Deputies referred to the question of people leaving school. Ability West responded to 33 people leaving school this year. There were only 14 rehabilitative training places and the remaining 19 people had to be accommodated without any new additional funding being provided to the organisation. In 2012, Ability West responded to several emergencies. The organisation feels another cut in the 2013 budget would be a cut too far and would result in a reduction in essential services, such as respite, residential support, day services and transport.

We are concerned at cutbacks to the budgets for personal assistants and special needs provision. Children have lost special needs assistants and there is a major issue in respect of students leaving school. I understand 700 people came out of school last year. There is great concern about their future. The same issue exists in terms of domiciliary care allowance, where 63% of applications were refused in the first half of the year. Up to half of the applications for children with autism were refused. Autism, in particular, has been highlighted by many parents, one of whom wrote to me about her son with autism and an intellectual disability. In that case, the Brothers of Charity was a one-stop-shop for the family. I hope the Brothers of Charity and other organisations are not forgotten by the Government. People are asking why the Government is taking funding from the Brothers of Charity and such organisations when it should be helping these organisations with their financial situation.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I welcome the opportunity to speak on this debate and compliment Deputy Kelleher on tabling the motion at an appropriate time so that Members can speak in favour of citizens who suffer from a disability. The well-worded motion recognises that over 600,000 people in Ireland live with a disability and recognises their deep concern that services they so eagerly need may be cut and further reduced. The motion says it is unfair and unjust to cut the services and that we note the pledges in the programme for Government, which was signed over 18 months ago with full knowledge of the financial constraints of the economy. The programme for Government promises to ensure the quality of life of people with disabilities is enhanced and that the resources allocated reach the people who need them. It also refers to facilitating people with disabilities in achieving a greater level of participation in employment, training and education. We call on the Government to honour its commitments, made a relatively short time ago, in the programme for Government in advance of budget 2013. The choices the Government makes will help to define us as a country and say much about us as a society. It will say a lot about this society if Government backbenchers stand up to the mark and protect the most vulnerable in society. Last week, on Molesworth Street, thousands of people who suffer from disabilities and their family members came out to show their grave anxiety and concern about the potential for cuts to the service.

Last year, this area had a reduction of 3.7%. Of that, 1.7% was to be made in front-line spending and 2% was to be targeted at the administration side. That is not the case and it is disingenuous of the Minister to say the 2% out of 3.7% was administrative. One size does not fit all and while many service providers could achieve greater efficiencies and could be leaner, that is not always the case. After last year's budget, the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, met a deputation from an example of such an organisation in my constituency, St. Christopher's Services.

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