Thursday, 15 October 2020
Financial Resolutions 2020 - Financial Resolution No. 7: General (Resumed)
If one takes away all of the headlines over the past number of days, because an immense amount of money has been thrown at the economy due to Covid-19, one sector that this pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on are services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and psychology. Of these services, most people were waiting for 12 months or more prior to the pandemic and it has exacerbated the whole situation. Even before Covid-19 we had many debates in this House about people with disabilities who faced great challenges around poverty, discrimination and low unemployment levels. Historically, the State has always underfunded disability services.
The evidence of that is that over the past number of weeks St. John of God, a voluntary organisation that I used to work for, will cease its disability services activities in the next 12 months. That is very worrying for that sector.
To put this in context, the €150 increase in the respite grant will equate to €2.80 per week. That is a very small amount for a person dependent on that. The €100 million announced for the disability-related Covid-19 costs is welcome without doubt, but this will only keep existing services, which are under serious pressure, up and running.
Another factor in all the grimness of Covid-19 is to do with fundraising for voluntary bodies, which is down at least by 80%. That is having a detrimental effect on revenue for disability services. This will be the second year running where there has not been an increase in the disability allowance. All of that points to funding and resources for the disability sector. Many people, who do an incredible job, rely on those services. Service users and their families who have that outlet that is disability services have been under huge pressure, particularly in the past six months, and the stress and anxiety that brings is incalculable. I am not trying to underplay that but there is a great deal of anxiety about the next six months and where all of this will go, especially for families with challenging needs both in respect of the service and in the home environment. We need to ensure that the people who rely on services such as these are funded, whether it is the voluntary or non-voluntary sector. That should be done with a view to providing more resources to disability services in the coming six months and over the next five years. That is very important for everybody who uses the services in the State.