Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Services for People with Disabilities: Statements


2:45 pm

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail)

I am sorry.

Normally when I am taking notes, I believe it is important to respond to everybody who has taken the time to come in to raise their issues. I have made many notes on the valuable contributions made. It is regrettable that the contributors have not stayed here to listen to my answer.

I will begin with Deputy Harkin, who just raised issues with me. I will respond directly to her before delivering my speech. She raised two issues, the first being the resumption of the adult day services. I could not agree more with her on this. I have met many of the families concerned and noted they were absolutely delighted that there has been a resumption of the services. The Deputy is quite right in saying this is down to the staff and providers of all the services. They are putting their shoulders completely to the wheel. I must also acknowledge the collaborative work done since the outbreak of Covid by the Department, the HSE, the providers, the families and service users.

One of the earlier contributors spoke about a breakdown along the way. However, if Covid-19 did anything within the disability sector, it was to create an opportunity for services to work together more closely with one focus in mind, namely, protecting service users. Since becoming a Minister of State, I have met the Department and the HSE and they want that collaboration to continue. That is why I have support in relation to the 1% efficiency target and the €7.8 million allocation. There is a wide recognition in both the Department and the HSE on the need to support the frustrated families now. When we talk about the resumption of adult services, Deputy Harkin is right that it is not perfect. Services are not by any manner or means back at 100% or operating at their normal level of five days a week.

The most important point to remember is that Covid-19 has not gone away. Every provider is unique. All the service users who attend them are unique individuals with different underlying conditions who need particular care plans. The challenge the providers are tasked with meeting is to protect our most vulnerable as they return to the service. The objective is to ensure we have a comprehensive resumption of services. The whole costing behind that resumption of services is being discussed. It is part of the winter plan which has been extended on both sides, its start and finish. Part of that plan involves providing an additional 813 staff and the extra accommodation required to ensure facilities are in place to allow as many people as possible to return to the adult services.

Transport, which was raised by almost every speaker, is also being addressed. We might not hit the desired requirement of funding but the issue is being addressed.

Deputy Harkin also raised waiting lists for therapeutic interventions and the National Treatment Purchase Fund. Budgetary conversations are taking place at this time. The first step we took this morning was to address the backlog in assessments of need. I would like to start by carving into the backlog of people waiting for speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

I am also aware that a high-level conversation is taking place to ensure people who deliver part of the network disability teams are recalled from contact tracing. I was aghast to hear a directive was sent on this. I have requested that these people are returned to their posts because there are children in need and we cannot have our most critical staff who are needed for interventions doing contact tracing. We should deploy staff from other sectors to do contact tracing. I have no problem in saying that.

The Deputy opposite, whose name I have forgotten, raised two issues. I will look into the dental treatment issue he raised. I do not have an answer offhand but I will investigate the matter for the Deputy. Will he prompt me on the other issue he raised?


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