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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 Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen] Fine Gael and the Labour Party made specific pre-election promises on the retention and improvement of services for the disability sector. They made these pledges when the nature and scale of the required fiscal adjustments were already clear. We will do our utmost to ensure the Government parties adhere in some way to those promises, although if what they have been doing in the recent past is anything to go by, we cannot have much hope. It is clear to us that there is a need to bring forward a motion like this one.

  The Government parties' deliberations have been taking place at Cabinet over the last week. I listened to Deputy Keaveney this morning on radio saying he could not give an absolute commitment to any budget brought forward by his Government until he saw it in its entirety. I argue that it would have been more beneficial to him and his party colleagues and those in Fine Gael to seek a commitment from the Cabinet that it would ring-fence, as we have done in our proposals, spending on the health and disability sector and education. The Sunday Independent had a verbatim account of discussions at the Labour Party meeting last week. That article quoted the Minister for Education and Skills as looking for heads, as he has done in the past. Based on the apologies he has made in this House since entering office, the first thing he should check every morning is that his own head is still on his shoulders.

  The Government in preparing last year's budget, particularly for the Department of Health, had a false budget that had to be corrected to the tune of €400 million here last night. That brought about severe hardship for home helps. Some weeks ago when the Taoiseach was questioned about this, he said no one would be left without home help based upon need, and that Members should submit to him details of specific instances in their constituencies. I have informed the Taoiseach in writing of several cases in that regard and I am awaiting his response.

  Can the Taoiseach live up to the commitment he gave, not only in that instance but on the preparation of today's budget? Can he look after the least well off in our society, those who do not have the backing of ICTU and the ITGWU, the INO and the large unions that represent other sectors in society? They are represented by their families, as we saw during their protest last week. They are the ones who have been left to carry the can and they are the ones who deserve the support because they are the only ones getting the message to us to give to the Government.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan I thank Deputy Kelleher for tabling this motion. It is a vital motion on one of the most important days of the year, as we face the budget. We want to highlight the issue of disability and ensure no further cuts are inflicted on the sector. Everyone who has spoken has mentioned their care for and concern about people with disabilities. As we talk about the person with the disability, often the language we use forgets those people are individuals. We want to make sure there are no cuts in respite care for them, and that no services are cut.

Every Deputy has been visited by families who have told how respite has been withdrawn, particularly during the summer and during the holiday period we face now. Families of people with disabilities are at breaking point, trying to cope as best they can.

Funding was increased dramatically over recent years, particularly going back to 1997, when the first envelop of money was provided under Brian Cowen when he was Minister for Health. There was a sense we were streamlining a mechanism to ensure funding went straight to the people with disabilities. Services, however, have grown and the services that have grown up are legitimately required; there are no frills here, they are genuinely necessary.

Families are still coming to me because of the cuts in the last budget. Some of the service providers took those cuts on the chin and absorbed them into their systems but they will not be able to do that again. There is a constant line that there are inefficiencies in the system but if the Minister has evidence from the review published this year that there are inefficiencies in some of the systems, he should go after those and pinpoint them so savings can be made. There are service providers, however, who are working on a very tight budget and there is a huge amount of voluntary fund raising done to provide those services on an ongoing basis. Those involved have pared back their activities to provide the most efficient services possible.

We must all accept this is one of the most important sectors of society, made up of the most vulnerable. Those with disabilities and their families are hugely constrained but there have been huge advances in therapies that have had a positive impact on people. We must make sure today and every other day that there are no further cuts because the service will deteriorate as a result.

The cut in respite care and facilities during the summer months and as we face into Christmas is a huge issue. Families that have been applying for carers' allowance have had to wait up to 12 months and that is unacceptable. I would ask the Government to ensure whatever decisions are taken today, and we all understand tough decisions must be taken, this sector, those with disabilities, be they children or adults, are valued as human beings and they have the best possible services available to them.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I commend my party colleague, Deputy Billy Kelleher, for tabling this motion. This Fianna Fail Private Members' motion gives the opportunity to all Members in this House to give a clear commitment to provide the necessary support and services to enable people with disabilities to fulfil their potential.

Over the past few months in particular, many people with disabilities and their families have expressed real concerns about the supports that will be available to them. There is a deep concern among those people that services affecting them may be cut or reduced further. To reduce services to people with disabilities will be totally unfair and unjust. Not alone did Fine Gael and the Labour Party make pre-election promises but they made commitments in the programme for Government that are not being honoured. In this motion we call on the Government to provide the appropriate funding and services necessary to honour its commitments to people with disabilities.

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