Thursday, 10 September 2020
Services for People with Disabilities: Statements
Seán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
I welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber and welcome her statement. The announced €7.8 million is a significant sum of money but it will only become so if the follow-on services are provided. Last night in the House I raised the issue of professionals such as occupational therapists being deployed to contact tracing and even testing.
That makes a mockery of any attempts to ensure people who rely on the follow-on services arising from an assessment of need would get those services. I ask the Minister of State to take a closer look at that to see if those people can be brought back into a core front-line service. If the announcement of the €7.8 million is to mean anything for families, it should mean a follow-on service becoming available arising from the retrenchment of those who are otherwise engaged at present.
I accept the Minister of State's point in respect of 90% of day services having reopened but forgive me if I am sceptical. Some 90% of the services might be open but that does not mean people have access to 90% of services. People are back on a part-time basis and it is still very piecemeal. Until we get to the stage where people have full access to the services they have always enjoyed and have a right to, there is a long way to go. To be fair to the Minister of State, she would acknowledge that.
I also want to speak for organisations like St. Joseph's Foundation in my neck of the woods. One of its facilities, Cooleens House, has been reassigned as an isolation centre. It was a respite house and respite is key to all of these services for families. I am sure the Minister of State will respond to this case. If Cooleens House could revert to a respite house and some other such facility could be found to provide for isolation, that would send a clear and positive signal to those who use the services of St. Joseph's Foundation.
Will the Minister of State examine the relationship between the HSE and the section 38 and 39 organisations? The voluntary organisations are very much price takers. They have to accept the budget they are given. They must then raise funds, which has been challenging in the current climate. I ask that the HSE, on ministerial direction, give some ground and financial leeway to these organisations in the current climate in order that they can get on with restoring the services to which people are entitled. In my experience, the relationship with the HSE has sometimes been lopsided. The HSE has come in waving a stick or beating the drum against some section 38 and 39 bodies. In the current climate, these organisations need a little financial headroom and leeway to allow them to deliver services. There needs to be a rebalancing of their relationship with the HSE. I am sure the Minister of State is conscious that without these organisations, these services would not be provided.
I make the case for respite services. I ask the Minister of State to reply, if not today then at some stage, regarding the metrics for every single person or group who should have access but do not have access at full capacity at this time. If that issue were addressed and a full service restored, it would bring relief to many families.