Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Section 39 Organisations: Motion [Private Members]
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and commend Sinn Féin on bringing forward this motion.
I want to give an example of a facility in my constituency that shows the effects of the Government’s inaction on section 39 workers. I have been working closely with my colleague, Councillor Joe Flaherty, on highlighting the issues facing St. Christopher's Services in Longford. It provides day services for 140 adults, full-time respite care for 37 adults, respite care for 36 adults and day and weekend respite for 15 children. The Minister of State is aware of this service because he met me and its CEO earlier this year.
Unfortunately, while he gave us a listening ear on that occasion, nothing has happened since. The biggest challenge facing an organisation such as St. Christopher's with a staff of 220 people is the variance in pay with the other HSE services, section 38 organisations and private providers. I have been informed that, on average, there is a shortfall of €6,500 per annum in the terms and conditions for the pay of the staff in St. Christopher's. How does the Minister of State expect such services to be able to retain and attract staff? I have outlined the number of service users who rely on theses services in Longford. If it cannot retain existing staff or attract new staff, the organisation will not last into the future. The Minister of State must examine this critically without any further delay.
The other areas of challenge for this service are the lack of an appropriate multidisciplinary team, the lack of psychological supports and poor infrastructural investments. When we met the Minister of State earlier this year, we gave two examples of where money could be saved. It involved shared services with smaller section 39 organisations working together, reducing duplication, making savings and re-investing them into services. We highlighted how St. Christopher's Services is covered under clinical medical negligence insurance but not covered for general indemnity insurance. If it was covered for the latter, there would be savings of €138,000, which could be put back into services.
The Minister of State came out with good words. He gave us a welcome ear. However, section 39 organisations want tangible action.