Tuesday, 28 June 2016
Special Educational Needs Service Provision
I will cover all of the major issues in my response.
Again, I thank the Senator for raising the issue of the funding needed to reopen the Tír na nÓg respite centre in Carlow which was closed in December 2015. I welcome the opportunity to outline the current position in regard to this matter. Holy Angels day care centre is a disability agency that provides services, including a preschool service, for children with disabilities in Carlow. The facility is funded on an annual basis by the HSE under section 39 of the Health Act. In 2015, it received funding in the region of €720,000.
As the Senator said, respite services for children in Carlow were previously provided by Tír na nÓg in Carlow. In December 2015, the Holy Angels day care centre advised HIQA and the HSE of the decision of the board of management to close the centre from January 2016 after it received notice from the landlord. On 16 December 2015, the HSE disability services manager wrote to the Holy Angels day care requesting Holy Angels to develop a plan regarding an alternative approach to respite service provision to be completed in consultation with families in receipt of respite and notifying them of the discontinuation of the existing respite service due to lack of premises. The families were also informed that they would be invited to meetings in January 2016 in regard to these respite services.
Tír na nÓg provided respite breaks to 42 children and their families with each client being offered a one to two-night respite break every three months, with the current service open six nights per month. The children range in age from 18 months to 18 years and have a wide range of disabilities from mild to severe. There are additional children on the waiting list. In March 2016, in order to address the current respite provision requirements, an alternative respite provision was set up in partnership with the HSE and Holy Angels and is currently provided, via the Holy Angels, at the Delta centre as an interim arrangement.
The HSE estates unit is actively - I stress the word "actively" - seeking to purchase or rent suitable accommodation for future service provision. It was decided that should the HSE find a suitable residence for respite in either counties Carlow or Kilkenny that services will be provided for both Carlow and Kilkenny from that location until purpose-built accommodation is completed.
The long-term intention of the HSE is to develop a new purpose-built respite service for County Carlow. With this intention in mind, a capital submission was sent to the HSE's capital steering committee in respect of Carlow. The capital steering committee considered the submission on 8 March 2016. There was a problem with the submission because the €20 million available for capital funding in 2016 was targeted and changed to supporting situations that dealt with congregated settings, which is the HSE's priority at the moment and is something that I have pushed personally.
The HSE met the families in Carlow to receive feedback and hear their opinion on the development of a future respite service. This feedback has been incorporated into the specifications that will be used in the process to put in place a new service provider of children's respite care in Carlow. With these specifications, the HSE has committed to the provision of an overnight respite service for children in Carlow.