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 Header Item Winter Plan 2020: Statements (Continued)
 Header Item Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Building Regulations

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler]  It is important to mention nursing homes and the important role they and their staff have played in the care of our most vulnerable older people before the pandemic and, especially, in the last few difficult months. The pandemic bore down very hard on our older people. Unfortunately, 54% of all deaths to date have occurred in the nursing home sector. Our nursing homes are where many of our older people call home and it is critical that we continue our supports to that sector. Our plans for winter will be enhanced by the extension of the temporary assistance payment scheme, which will continue to provide funding to private and voluntary nursing homes and to residential care homes to ensure they are prepared for Covid-19 so they are safe for older people who are transferring out of the hospital system. Enhancements in rehabilitation and home care will also help to ensure that our older people can be cared for in the community, thereby easing the pressure on capacity in nursing homes and providing an alternative care pathway when leaving hospital settings.

I want to touch on mental health because it has been raised by almost every Deputy in the House and it forms a very important part of my remit as Minister. The winter plan, with a focus on those actions which will have an impact on winter, and specifically trolleys, is part of the larger strategic plan which the Government asked the HSE to develop for health service delivery to the end of 2021 in the context of the pandemic. I intend to seek, as part of this strategic plan in the Estimates process, additional resources to implement a number of the short-term recommendations of the mental health policy, Sharing the Vision. It is important for everyone who has spoken today to note that the 4.7 million hours which will be added to the existing 19 million hours that are already there will not differentiate whether one is older or has dementia, a disability or a mental health issue. The carer will not stop at the door and say they are only looking after older people. Those hours are there for everyone: those with mental health issues, those with disability issues, those who are vulnerable, those with dementia and the older generation. It is important to get the point out tonight that those hours are for anybody who needs support in their home. For everyone who has said there was nothing in it for mental health or people with disabilities, those hours will not differentiate. When the carer goes in the front door, he or she will not differentiate whether one has a mental health or disability issue.

The winter plan is about people. It enables patients to be seen in the community and to remain in their own homes. This is the Sláintecare principle of the right care, in the right place, at the right time. However, we have a growing and an ageing population. This Government accepts that we need more acute beds in our hospital system to provide acute care to this growing population. This plan provides for a range of additional beds in acute, sub-acute and community settings along with arrangements to work with private hospitals to deal with urgent cases and waiting lists. I was struck when Deputy Harkin mentioned the four extra ICU beds going to Sligo. Each extra ICU bed needs six nurses and is at a cost of €750,000, so I am delighted Sligo is getting extra capacity. It is great to hear. These additional acute beds and measures to move care to the community will allow hospitals to operate more efficiently and reduce the number of patients receiving care on hospital trolleys.

Finally, I encourage everyone to do their bit to keep themselves healthy this winter by eating well, exercising, getting the flu vaccine, washing their hands, keeping their distance, limiting the number of people they are meeting and following public health guidance. I also encourage everyone to seek medical help if they think they need it. We are doing everything possible to keep our health settings safe for patients and staff.

Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Steven Matthews - to discuss proposals by the Changing Places campaign to require changing places in public buildings; (2) Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan - to discuss an application to develop regional rehabilitation services in the South/South West Hospital Group; (3) Deputy Dessie Ellis - to discuss the expansion of the programme to retrofit older houses to upgrade their energy efficiency; (4) Deputy Alan Kelly - to discuss plans to develop the Dean Maxwell community nursing home; (5) Deputy Paul Donnelly - to discuss the possible closure of level crossings on the new Dart+ line to Maynooth; (6) Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor - to discuss protection against litigation for schools arising from integrating children into mainstream classes; (7) Deputy Louise O'Reilly - the need for additional autism spectrum disorder places in north County Dublin; (8) Deputy John Lahart - to discuss steps to address the crisis facing businesses and traders in Dublin city; (9) Deputy Maurice Quinlivan - to discuss the prevalence of drugs in Limerick city; (10) Deputy Joan Collins - to discuss the dismissal of workers in Spike Island tours; and (11) Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú - to discuss access to public liability insurance in the leisure and community sector.

The matters raised by Deputies Steven Matthews, Pádraig O'Sullivan, Alan Kelly and Maurice Quinlivan have been selected for discussion.

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Building Regulations

Deputy Steven Matthews: Information on Steven  Matthews Zoom on Steven  Matthews I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, for being here to answer these questions. I request that the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government carry out a review to examine amending the building regulations to include the mandatory installation of adequate toilet facilities for disabled people and their carers, known as changing places facilities. The Minister will know that while Part M of the building regulations states that new buildings must include standard wheelchair accessible toilet facilities, they do not allow for more severely disabled adults and teens, who may require incontinence pad changing facilities, a larger square metreage floor area to allow for carers and the use of a hoist. The campaign group Changing Places has established a template for a changing facility that allows equity of access to all. These are accessible for those who need carer support for sanitary and toilet use. Changing places rooms have a higher ceiling to allow for a hoist, a larger floor space to accommodate carers, a centralised toilet to allow for carer support and, vitally, a height-adjustable adult-sized changing bench. At the moment, there are just 15 changing places facilities in the Republic of Ireland.

To put this in context, I will tell the Minister of State about Sophia. I have her family's permission to highlight her situation in the Dáil this evening. Sophia is a wonderful young woman. She is 13 years of age and loves her dog, her brother, her sister and eating ice cream. Sophia also has cerebral palsy and arthrogryposis and has had surgery for scoliosis. She is non-verbal and requires an adult-sized changing bench for toilet use. Recently, Sophia and her family visited me in Bray and when I asked where the nearest changing places facility was, her father Aaron told me there were none available in the entire county of Wicklow, and Wicklow is not unique in this regard. Many parents have experienced the frustration of seeking baby changing facilities, only to find they are not available. Usually, with a small baby one can make do. This is not the case for people with certain disabilities. In Sophia's case, every trip and visit is planned with an adequate toilet facility in mind and there are only 15 such facilities in the country. Very often, her father told me, they do not bother going anywhere at all because of the lack of access to these facilities. I believe every person should have access to adequate bathroom facilities. It is neither reasonable nor acceptable to expect people like Sophia to make do, when making do involves a complete loss of dignity. Her parents must attempt to change her in the back of their van or limit their trips to one of a handful of locations that can accommodate her needs.

Recently, the UK Government announced that changes would be made to legislation to install compulsory changing places in new public buildings, such as shopping centres, art galleries, sports stadiums, libraries or larger public buildings from 2021. I believe we should now examine changing the building regulations to ensure planning applications for suitable public buildings include a changing places toilet facility. As we learn to live with Covid, we must be mindful of the vulnerable, who will look to this Government to act for them in ensuring their dignity, safety and well-being. I hope the Minister of State and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government will work with me to meet the campaigners in Changing Places, who comprise representatives from many disability advocacy groups, and listen to them to ensure young women like Sophia can go about their day with the dignity they deserve. I thank the Minister of State.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Malcolm Noonan): Information on Malcolm Noonan Zoom on Malcolm Noonan I thank the Deputy for raising this issue and for presenting such a poignant case in relation to Sophia and her family. As the matter stands, new buildings and extensions of material alterations to existing buildings must comply with the legal minimum performance standards set out in the building regulations of 1997 to 2019. In this context, the Building Regulations (Part M Amendment) Regulations 2010 and the accompanying Technical Guidance Document M - Access and Use 2010, which came into effect on 1 January 2012, set out the minimum statutory requirements a building must achieve in respect of access.

The requirements of Part M aim to ensure that regardless of aim, size or disability, new buildings other than dwellings are accessible and usable; extensions to existing buildings other than dwellings are, where practicable, accessible and usable; material alterations to existing buildings other than dwellings increase the accessibility and usability of existing buildings, where practicable; certain changes of use to existing buildings other than dwellings increase the accessibility and usability of existing buildings, where practicable; and new dwellings are visitable. Part M of the building regulations aims to foster an inclusive approach to the design and construction of the built environment. While Part M requirements may be regarded as a statutory minimum level of provision, the accompanying technical guidance encourages building owners and designers to regard the design philosophy of universal design and consider making additional provisions, where practicable and appropriate.

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