Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Imminent Closure of Cuisle Accessible Holiday Resort: Statements
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. Nobody here doubts his passion and commitment to his portfolio.This issue was raised by several Senators as soon as they learned of it and Senator Leyden pushed for it to be discussed further today. To term it that we cannot question and ask the Minister of State without him feeling we are questioning his commitment is somewhat misguided. I do not know the story is coming from in respect of the Irish Wheelchair Association, IWA, because it made clear in its statement to me that if the funding for the necessary works had been available, the decision to close would not have been made. The lack of €1.5 million or more to keep the fire certificate and keep the building up to standard is what has led to the closure. The Minister of State emphasised that the lack of funding, allied with the fall-off in numbers, convinced, as he said, the IWA that its new model of care approach is the right one. I am not at all convinced that Cuisle provides an outdated form of respite care or holiday. I refer to the idea that modern holidays must be inclusive. Of course, there should be inclusivity for all and an intergenerational mix of people with various disabilities or other issues. As a society and as communities, we all get along together.
The hotel-centred provision that is being lauded as providing centres of excellence for those seeking respite or a holiday is for the few, not the many. Various institutions were closed from the 1980s onwards because it was deemed that we did not want institutional living. Rather, we wanted people to be independent. We are striving for people with disabilities to be able to live independently and have much to do in that regard, such as through the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. There is a significant amount of work to do to make up for institutionalisation in the past. Unfortunately, in the closure of those facilities, we forgot to take account of the simple fact that we could not replicate the services they provided in the community. Many people are on waiting lists for specialist treatment, solace or other issues. The institutions to which I refer were closed on the promise of a bright new dawn which would bring wonderful facilities within the community. That ambition was to be applauded but it has not been realised. As the Minister of State is aware, A Vision for Change was published 15 years ago to address issues of mental health but 75% of it is yet to be implemented. To some extent, we are cutting off our nose to spite our face.
Reading between the lines, it seems there are certain issues within the IWA to which I am not privy. The IWA told me that if funding was available, the centre would not be closing and that if funding is made available, it will reconsider the closure. Perhaps there are nuances to that of which the Minister of State is aware.
It is telling that all the statistics relating to and quotes from the happy people who are using the hotels and respite care only show one side of the coin. A significant protest rally took place last Saturday but nobody interviewed the people who were there to protest the closure of the centre. The quotes that have been selected are biased and one-sided and do not give a true picture of what people want. Senator Leyden knows more than I do about the IWA and is demanding that an extraordinary general meeting be called such that all voices can be heard. That is probably the way to go.
I appeal to the Minister of State not to allow the centre to close on Friday. We should take a breather and see what people want. The voices of one side only are being heard. There are many people who have complex needs and are unable to go to hotels or enjoy the freedom of living in the community. They may have mobility difficulties and require a hoist or medication. The extra loving care that they need is provided by this centre. I hope the Minister of State reconsiders the closure. I understand there are plans to move to a different system of care, but we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.