Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Section 39 Organisations: Motion [Private Members]
I am happy to speak on this important topic. As have my colleagues, I have been raising this issue on behalf of HSE employed staff in my constituency for some time. I am delighted to see Senator John Dolan, the CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland in the Chamber. I compliment him and his organisation on all of the work they do.
I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister for Health on the need to restore pay for staff in section 39 organisations. I accept the view put forward in the motion that the independent, not-for-profit section 39 sector provides vital services for many thousands of people with disabilities throughout Ireland and that the section 39 sector also provides healthcare and services for the elderly and youth, substance abuse, suicide prevention, social inclusion, education and community development services, meals on wheels services as Deputy Collins mentioned, and many other services. There can be no doubt that it is a sector that needs our support and our assistance. The organisations cannot wait for it.
More broadly speaking, I remain deeply concerned around the provision of funding, not just to the workers but to the services infrastructure, especially in the area of disabilities and mental health. The voluntary sector and disability sector came before the Oireachtas health committee earlier this year. The Chairman of that committee, Deputy Harty, is sitting behind me. The witnesses described the service as a house that is falling down. They said that while scaffolding is being provided, the house could still fall and this is entirely unacceptable. The independent voluntary disability service providers said they operate in the absence of a Government strategy for their role and future, and also in the absence of adequate funding for services. Their warning is that this will soon be unsustainable. It is already unsustainable. Those impacted because of this uncertain future are the people who rely on residential, respite and day services and who deserve to live full lives as citizens of this State with the support they need.
I salute the many volunteers and board members of not-for-profit organisations who give gallant service and, along with the staff, keep those services going. They have to beg and scrounge and do church gate collections and God knows what to try to top up the wages. This is of the people by the people. People leave those jobs and go into a HSE job because they are pensionable positions and everything else. We are abandoning these people. They are the most needy people of all. As others have said, I am aware of countless cases where people cannot get a full residential place because of funding. The lives of parents and others are in danger because of adult children with many emotional and mental difficulties. The danger to people's health is another crisis. I believe the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, has done his best. The Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, is gone. He is all promises and no action. That is the problem. When he was on this side of the House he was great but I am so disappointed with him during his term for paying lipservice to this area. It needs to change. We need to look after these people.