Thursday, 28 June 2007
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on the urgent need to develop health and disability services on the north side of Dublin. This was an important element of my recent agreement with the Taoiseach which was about delivery of services to people and creating an opportunity for those who have been left behind. It is an agreement built on equality and social justice. I did not seek nor ask for mercs and perks; all I asked for was services.
Today I make myself accountable to the 30th Dáil and also to the people of Coolock, Marino, Drumcondra, Donnycarney, Clontarf, Raheny, Artane, Fairview and Beaumont. I make no apology for trying to deliver services to these people who put me into the Dáil. I am standing by the people of Dublin North-Central. My mandate is to look after the vulnerable, the sick, the disabled, the elderly and the very young. This is my agreement with the Taoiseach. The real challenge is to deliver services, particularly to those people who have been left behind. Society is people and without people there is no society. My agreement is about redeveloping respect and trust and an insistence on people-centred policies that can be implemented. This is not rocket science but rather about helping the weaker sections of society to receive their rights as citizens of this nation. This is also an excellent investment opportunity and relates to delivery on important issues such as health, education, disabilities, housing, foreign policy matters and important environmental issues such as Dublin Bay.
An agreement has been made on a number of important local priorities. I will be accountable and I will inform the constituents and the Dáil as these are rolled out. These will include the following: increased funding for the Stardust inquiry of €400,000-€100,000 has already been delivered; funding for Kilmore West community centre, Coolock, which supports elderly and youth services; the retention of Greendale community school for educational use and to ensure that no part of it is sold; extra funding for services for children and adults with a disability living on the north side; funding for the Central Remedial Clinic in Clontarf; €1.7 million for the upgrade of the Tolka river flood programme; assistance for the residents of Richmond Road; capital moneys must be allocated to the orthopaedic hospital in Clontarf to upgrade its facilities; support and funding for a new PE hall at Rosmini School in Drumcondra; extra funding for services at St. Michael's House; improved facilities for the visually impaired; and extra community gardaí on the beat in Dublin North-Central. Those are just some of the local priorities, and I will announce more later.
The Taoiseach and I share a vision of an Ireland where people with disabilities have the greatest possible opportunity to live full lives with their families and as part of their local communities without discrimination. I am strongly pushing for implementation of the national disability strategy, which would cost €900 million over the next three years, that is €300 million per year. In real terms, that means more residential places, respite places, speech therapists and services on the ground for everyone with a disability.
I look forward to seeing extra teachers reducing class sizes, improvements in special education, more support for children with autism and the tackling of educational disadvantage, and more services for citizens. People will be informed as they are rolled out.
We have also dealt with health matters, and over the next five years, I look forward to extra hospital beds, including long-stay beds, and primary care teams, better services for cystic fibrosis patients, and improved cancer services. I stress that we need action on cystic fibrosis and cancer services as quickly as possible.
On foreign affairs, I have also supported the anti-war movement and have major human rights concerns regarding US policy. In the negotiations, I did my best to push that agenda, especially regarding the aid target of 0.5% of GNP in 2007, more support for the UN, and our being more progressive, taking an all-Ireland view of the economy, health, education, agriculture and the environment. Under the agreement, transit through Shannon and other Irish airports of foreign troops participating in military operations will be permitted where such an operation has been authorised by the UN. In the absence of such authorisation, it will be for the Government to consider the merits of each situation on a case-by-case basis and decide whether to grant permission, which shall be given only following a motion passed by Dáil Éireann.
My agreement with the Taoiseach is about the sensible spending of taxpayers' money. It has the potential to build and develop a better future for everyone. As the Independent Deputy for Dublin North-Central, all that I ask for is people's support.
I am at something of a loss, since there was so much of everything else.
I know Deputy Finian McGrath has an interest in disability services and education for persons with special needs, since he was opposite me when I was Minister for Education and Science and we put the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 on the Statute Book. I acknowledge that and remind the Deputy of the Government's record on disability services over recent years. The commitment is shared by all Ministers.
Between 1997 and 2006, additional revenue and capital funding of €851 million was invested in health-funded support services for people with disabilities, of which €549 million was provided for persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism. An additional sum of €75 million for revenue purposes was provided for disability services in the 2007 budget. That sum incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the national disability strategy, under which it is committed to providing some €900 million capital and revenue funding over the period 2005-09. We will honour that commitment.
With specific regard to Dublin north, as part of such funding, €9.36 million was provided for intellectual disability services, resulting in 68 new residential places, 138 new day places and 18 new respite places. Some €2.8 million went on physical disability services, resulting in 19 new residential places and almost 63,000 additional hours of home support service being provided. As part of the multi-annual investment programme, over 40 additional posts, including physiotherapists, senior occupational therapists, senior speech and language therapists, senior psychologists, senior social workers and early intervention team managers, were approved for disability services in the Dublin north area in 2006 and 2007. That will continue over the Government's lifetime.
Outside the multi-annual investment package funding, the HSE provides ongoing funding for disability services in the Dublin north area as follows: €163 million in 2006 to 43 agencies providing services and support to persons with disabilities; and €4.35 million in 2006 for home care supports to allow persons with disabilities to remain in the community. Some €5.66 million was provided in 2006 to fund the residential care of persons with physical or sensory disabilities who could no longer be cared for in the community, and a specific amount of €459,150 is provided annually to provide aids and appliances to persons with physical and sensory disabilities.
The Deputy should also note that building work has just begun on the development of a 60-bed bungalow complex at St. Joseph's Disability Services, Portrane. The estimated cost of that project is €17 million.
The Deputy will be aware that people with physical and sensory disabilities also avail themselves of general primary care services such as general practitioner, dental, ophthalmic, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, public health nursing, area medical officers, financial allowances and so on. Expenditure on those services is included in the general community services provision.
The Deputy also raised concerns regarding HSE plans for older persons' services in the north Dublin area. Services will continue to be rolled out, particularly the delivery of home care packages that allow older people to remain at home for a longer period, as well as to facilitate earlier discharges from an acute hospital setting. The intent over the coming years is to continue to increase the number of packages in the area, which rose from 563 in December 2005 to 1,480 in May 2007.
Funding has also been provided for additional places and extended opening at day-care facilities, additional respite care beds, and for organisations providing meals on wheels.