Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Section 39 Organisations: Motion [Private Members]
I am delighted to support the motion. This issue has been going on for some time. Section 39 organisations are doing unbelievable work throughout the country. I refer specifically to St. Joseph's in Charleville, which the Minister of State visited with me in January 2017. One of the issues outlined at the time was the escalating cost of insurance, a matter I raised earlier on the Order of Business. There were also concerns over respite and the shared care initiatives in St. Joseph's as well as the restoration of pay for the workers.
These organisations have become reliant on agency workers. They do Trojan work in looking after the most vulnerable in our society. They are locked in a continual battle each year with the HSE over funding and different streams of funding. There are long waiting lists for basic assessments for children. We have heard all the fine talk. When people look back at this period they will see how we neglected children with intellectual disabilities by not providing assessments in time. There are no therapies available. People need to wait two years for an assessment and another two years for therapies, which is simply not good enough.
When I have raised this issue, the Minister of State has claimed that additional funding has been allocated for respite. I know of families who are told they have two or three weekends a year of respite but not continuous respite. It is a shameful indictment. These organisations, and in particular St. Joseph's, have been managing a reduced budget to try to spread as thinly as possible their services in north County Cork and south County Limerick. It is a fantastic organisation but the staff are at their wits' end over funding and particularly over the restoration of pay for their workers. As previous speakers have said, it is a no-brainer. We need to ensure these people are looked after and that the people who are working at the coalface of disability services are looked after and put to the forefront of our debates.