Dáil debates

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Disability Services

5:55 pm

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

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I like how he said he wishes to discuss this issue, and that is exactly how he laid it out this evening. The response I have is totally different from the answer needed to how the Deputy has presented this topic. He is right: we do not do enough transition planning for where young people transition from second level education, whether it be in a special class, special school or special unit, to adult day services. They are coming from a space where they are well supported, well minded and really well protected to a space where, although we have brought in annual funding since 2015 for young people to be able to access adult day services under the school-leaver programme, and this year we have €34 million left aside for the school-leaver programme, regrettably, transport is not considered a core part of the HSE response to the school-leaver programme under the Department of Health. That speaks exactly to the point about parents being stressed and worried about that transition planning piece. It is unfortunate that sometimes a young adult has to give up a day attending a training centre or a day service to ensure the cost of his or her transport is protected. Saying it is not a core health piece sometimes leaves me astounded. We spend in excess of €50 million annually providing transport for people to attend day services. Since 2015, however, we do not provide any funding to support people in regard to this issue under discussion. I totally understand why families are anxious.

The positive piece that has happened recently is there has been a Cabinet subcommittee established to shine a light on this exact topic. I am fortunate the Minister of State, Deputy Madigan, and the Minister, Deputy Foley, with the support of the Taoiseach, are prepared to shine that light on it, with the acknowledgement that we need to do better transition planning. We need to start planning in transition year as to what the needs and wants of individuals are. We also need to be ambitious for young people as opposed to just saying they need to go to a day service. We need to see what their needs and abilities are and support them to have that independent piece in the community. The most important piece is you need to give them that support to access the community as opposed to saying there is a train nearby or a local bus they can use to go to a training service, without ever perhaps teaching or supporting them to understand the basics of accessing transport - going in the morning and returning in the evening. We need to front-load the supports to build confidence into the young people. It is something I would like to ensure we get funding for going forward.

This year, I introduced a deferral programme to ensure it was not just a case that there was no choice for young people other than going to adult services. I gave a deferral to allow young people to have the choice to go into further education, maybe something to do with literacy and numeracy through the further education and training, FET, system or a social work scheme. It was to give young people choices. I have seen the wonderful work done in respect of apprenticeships. We need to show parents there are choices and options available. The most important piece in this conversation, however, is that we need to be able to fund that delivery and continuum of services, so that you do not fall off the cliff edge, as it were, the minute you leave the leaving certificate year or turn 18 years of age.

I am happy to work with the Deputy on this and have him part of other conversations that are taking place to ensure it happens and to bring confidence to parents that, as it were, you do not fall off that cliff edge.


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