Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Services for People with Disabilities
Maria Corrigan (Fianna Fail)
I thank the Cathaoirleach for the opportunity to raise this very important matter. I request the Minister for Health and Children to provide a report on the progress of inspections of facilities and residential services for children with disabilities, residential services for adults with disabilities and such services for unaccompanied minors.
It has long been a requirement for residential services for children to be inspected. An anomaly has existed, however, whereby if a residential service provides accommodation for children with disabilities, there was an exemption from inspection. All children are vulnerable and are entitled to a commitment from the State to protect them and ensure their safety. By their nature, children with disabilities have a heightened vulnerability.
I very much welcome the commitment given to develop guidelines and standards for residential services but I am concerned the inspectorate has not yet commenced its work in inspecting these residential facilities. These facilities are funded in many cases by the State and yet we have no means to validate independently the safety of the children in the centres or the quality of service we are paying for to be delivered to the children.
Recent experiences which have highlighted physical and sexual abuse as well as the conditions in some premises have indicated a need to have an inspection system in place. There is also a need to ensure, when we seek value for money from services, it is represented in the quality of care provided to the children who are essentially in our care.
Residential facilities for adults with intellectual disability are not under the ambit of an inspectorate. I welcome the commitment to standards, developing guidelines and commencing inspections but I would appreciate a timeframe for this work. It had been hoped the inspections might have commenced earlier this year.
A number of residential facilities are provided by the State for unaccompanied minors. I have made statements before on their right to protection and a quality of service, and I insist this group also be included in the work of the inspectorate. I would appreciate it if the Minister of State could provide details whether that will be the case.