Thursday, 16 April 2015
Services for People with Disabilities
I ask if the Minister of State will pursue the implementation of agreed measures, targets and time lines for disability services. I ask this question in the context of the crisis that exists in many disability services. There is a lack of planning and targets with regard to the provision of services for people with disabilities. One example of this is that adult services for 30 young adults on the north side of Dublin will be under major pressure from next September. What is happening with regard to these services? The Minister of State has said that €12 million will be made available for school leavers nationally, yet I have had 30 families tell me that they will not be able to get an adult service in September.
I understand the Deputy's question specifically relates to the reconfiguration of residential services as recommended in the HSE's report, Time to Move from Congregated Settings - A Strategy for Community Inclusion. I will come back to the Deputy's supplementary oral question presently. The aforementioned report proposes a new model of support in the community by moving people from institutional settings to the community over a seven year time frame.
The report identified that around 4,000 people with disabilities in Ireland live in congregated settings, defined as residential settings where people live with ten or more others. It found that notwithstanding the commitment and initiative of dedicated staff and management, there were a significant number of people still experiencing institutional living conditions where they lacked basic privacy and dignity and lived their lives apart from any community and family.
I would like to acknowledge the work and progress made by the HSE and disability service providers in transitioning people from congregated settings since 2008. At the end of 2014 there were approximately 2,900 people with a disability living in institutional care and many of the original group of 4,000 surveyed had transitioned to alternative community living arrangements. I am anxious to ensure that this momentum is maintained. The reconfiguration of disability residential services has been prioritised by the HSE social care directorate in its operational plan for 2015, with an additional 150 people targeted to move this year. The HSE is currently developing an implementation plan for de-institutionalisation that will be rolled out at a regional and local level in full consultation with the stakeholders.
I am anxious to answer the Deputy's supplementary question. The 30 families to whom the Deputy referred need have no fears. As long as I have been in politics there was a crisis-driven approach, with people with disabilities coming out of training or school having nowhere to go in September. We did not have such a situation last year and will not have it this year either. People will have to outline to the HSE directorate the particular needs of the individuals in question and a place will be found for them. We do not want a crisis-driven approach to re-emerge. I assure the Deputy that it will not happen this year and the €12 million that we have set aside will ensure that it does not. A lot of planning is going into ensuring that people do not have the type of anxiety the Deputy has described.
I hope the Minister of State is right in that regard. I am putting down a marker now with regard to the provision of services next September. The Minister of State should note that parents have been told by St. Michael's House services that there is no guarantee that the required buildings will be available for use in September. Furthermore, the HSE has said that it will not fund transport services. There is an issue in that area.
On the broader issue of planning for people with disabilities, does the Minister of State accept that there have been major cuts to the supports that enabled people with disabilities to live independently? Many parents, particularly those who are more elderly, are suspicious when they hear the big fuss being made about congregated settings because they are afraid that their children will end up in a community setting without the necessary supports and services. We have seen cuts to the mobility allowance, respite care grant, motorised transport grant, benefit allowance, medical cards and home help services. There was also an attempt to cut the personal assistant service in the past which was reversed because of the reaction of people with disabilities. Is the Minister of State aware that such cuts are in breach of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? We need to up our game and plan proper services for all people with physical and intellectual disabilities.
I am determined that the crisis-driven service that we had in the past, which was more costly and was very unsatisfactory for those with disabilities and their families will no longer pertain. I do not accept that something is a crisis when it happens every year. This is something for which we should be able to plan and that is what we are doing.
If we are serious about mainstreaming people with disabilities and ensuring that they live the type of lives that we would expect to be able to live then a combination of efforts is required. It should not be necessary, for example, for people to be driven to every single venue. St. Michael's House, for instance, presented a project which involved service users being trained to use their free bus pass, which was a freeing experience for them, although I accept fully that not everyone is in that position.
We must be very careful to ensure that people with disabilities who are coming out of institutions into the community do not find themselves more isolated than they were previously. I am very conscious of that danger and will be very careful about how we manage the transition to ensure that people do not find themselves isolated within communities.
I hope that will be the case and that they will not be left without back up and support. Finally, on the broader question of people with intellectual disabilities, the Minister of State will be aware that there are 27,256 people with disabilities here, of whom 2,271 are looking for residential places or places in a community setting. There are only 197 people who need day care services now and surely that is something that we can deal with immediately, as a priority.
I do not have the information on that to hand and would not like to comment lest I lead the Deputy astray. That said, I do know that we will be dealing with 1,400 people this year, between school leavers and those leaving training schemes. We dealt with a similar number of people last year and we should be able to plan in respect of these people.