Tuesday, 5 February 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Services for People with Disabilities
I thank the Senator for raising this very important issue. I am well aware of his work and support for families of children and adults with disabilities in the Donegal area.
I thank him for raising the issue of funding for the iCare autism support group and the Bluestack Special Needs Foundation. As Senators may be aware, iCare provides a range of activities for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder in the Inishowen area. The organisation also provides supports and services for siblings and parents of children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder.
I would also like to acknowledge the Bluestack Special Needs Foundation's extraordinary achievements since it was established in 2006. The foundation operates a range of educational, practical and emotional support programmes using a family support model and provides evening and weekend activities, as well as summer camps and a diverse range of activities. Through its funding activities, the foundation has made very significant donations to charities in the area over a number of years.
I understand the Bluestack foundation has in the past received modest funding through the national lottery. Following a request for urgent funding last year, of which I am aware, the HSE met representatives of the Bluestack foundation and some funding was awarded to assist the organisation. That intervention was made last year.
I understand that both organisations have submitted funding applications to the HSE for 2019 and I can appreciate they are anxious to learn the outcome. The HSE's national service planning process for 2019 has now been agreed and budgets are currently being assigned to each community healthcare organisation, CHO. Once CHO area 1 receives its allocation, it will be in a position to consider the funding arrangements for individual services and organisations, and this will include those raised by the Senator.
As Senators may be aware, a number of important developments are under way regarding disability services in general and this includes autism services. In December 2018, the Minister, Deputy Harris, announced the publication of two reports relating to autism services. These included a research report on prevalence and a review of HSE autism services. The HSE review includes a range of recommendations aimed at improving services for children and adults with autism. The Minister has asked the HSE to proceed with implementing these recommendations and an autism plan will be published later this year. These actions will build on the substantial work already under way on improving autism services and the assessment process, in particular. The Government remains committed to providing service supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives. These supports will provide greater independence for people in accessing the services they choose and will enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. As part of this commitment, a radical programme of reform of disability services is under way. The implementation of the reforms will continue to have a practical and tangible impact on the lives of young people and their families. The work is ongoing, as is the investment and the reform. We need to focus on the organisations involved, such as those to which Senator Mac Lochlainn refers.