Thursday, 16 April 2015
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
Disability Services Funding
3. To ask the Minister for Health if he will ensure there are no further cuts to ChildVision services for multi-disabled and blind children in Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14804/15]
I ask the Minister of State to ensure there are no further cuts to ChildVision services for multi-disabled and blind children. For those who do not know, ChildVision is the national education centre for blind children and is based in Grace Park Road in Drumcondra, Dublin 9. It is an excellent service and over the past six years it has had to take cuts of some €821,000 or approximately 20%. Its costs of governing are in excess of €70,000 a year and it recently had additional costs in terms of registration feeds for HIQA of €50,000.
I thank the Deputy for tabling the question. I am pleased to take this opportunity to outline the current position in regard to the provision of financial support to ChildVision, the national education centre for blind children, Dublin which is an excellent service. It is funded by the HSE under section 39 of the Health Act 2004. Services are provided through a service arrangement which is signed on an annual basis and reviewed regularly. The HSE is committed to working with all voluntary disability service providers, including ChildVision, to ensure that available resources are used to respond to the needs of people with a disability, including blind and visually impaired people.
ChildVision was allocated funding by the HSE of over €4 million in 2014 to provide educational opportunities and support to over 500 blind and partially sighted children and young adults in a safe and nurturing environment. The HSE has held discussions with all voluntary health service providers regarding funding and service arrangements for 2015. The HSE has informed the Department that funding allocated to ChildVision remains at the 2014 level with no reductions planned. I understand that this was relayed to ChildVision recently. As I am sure the Deputy is well aware, the HSE will spend over €1.4 billion this year to provide specialist services and supports to those with disabilities.
I thank the Minister of State for her response and I hope the commitment to no reduction in funding in 2015 will be kept. I hope that is on the Dáil record. ChildVision is an excellent service, as the Minister of State has indicated, and the work and dedication of Mr. Brian Allen and the staff is above the highest standards. I visited the facility recently and was very impressed by the warmth and energy of all the staff and the people dealing with a very difficult issue.
Over the past couple of years, staff have had a take voluntary wage cuts of 10% and maternity leave was reduced by 50%. Staff costs have been reduced for lower-paid staff and there have also been changes to sick-pay policy and reduced staff numbers. ChildVision has also had to increase funding activity to meet the annual shortfalls. It has seen cuts in excess of €821,000. It has taken a hit and now we have an opportunity to ensure the service takes no further hit. It is an excellent service that must be developed and not cut.
I will not get into the reasons why people in this country had to take reductions in pay or the amount of money that the State could allocate to certain bodies. Even people at ChildVision would agree there were very difficult choices to be made. In 2014, ChildVision had its budget reduced by €25,000 and all disability agencies had similar reductions in that year. This represented half of the reduction required to meet the overall efficiency target reductions in 2014. ChildVision feared that in 2015 the reduction would be €54,000; however, the HSE undertook an evaluation of the impact of this reduction on voluntary agencies and has decided not to apply the full reduction in 2015.
I have been told by ChildVision that the shortfall for the 2015 budget is in the region of €120,000. We should focus on these issues. We can see the work the service is doing and it is delivering on efficiencies, reform and administration of services. ChildVision still needs basic services. It has a waiting list of 45 children, which must be dealt with in 2015. I urge the Minister of State to stay focused on services for these children who are visually impaired and blind, as well as the broader disability issues. We cannot have a position where people jump up and down about tax cuts in the next budget but we do not have adequate funding for services for blind or otherwise disabled children.
It is important that we clarify a point. It is not that I do not believe what the Deputy or ChildVision has indicated about the shortfall. However, the HSE imposed a reduction of €25,000 in 2014. That may have contributed to the shortfall but the reduction was €25,000.