Seanad debates

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

8:00 pm

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, for coming into the House. He takes a particular interest in disability. I met the Brothers of Charity Services and the Galway Association last Monday regarding issues they brought to my attention, chiefly, what they describe as serious emergencies in their region. They pointed out that as many as 75 people with urgent needs, whom the HSE rates as critical and requiring service immediately, cannot be offered those services under the 2006 budget. I hope this issue can be considered.

I am disappointed that in recent years the former Western Health Board tended to divide its money in the ratio of 3:2:1 between Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, respectively. This arose in many areas, for example, special housing aid for the elderly, in respect of which the money was underspent in Mayo for two years. Mayo gave €300,000 to Galway, which must pay it back. It is a ridiculous mathematical formula and I am sure the Minister of State would prefer to see assessment of needs as the criterion for allocating funding, whether in respect of housing aid for the elderly or disability services.

There is also a problem in regard to occupational therapy and physiotherapy. The associations to which I spoke have the personnel but need funding. They asked whether funding could be provided for their associations out of the dormant accounts fund. Western Care also does good work, particularly in County Mayo. Significant numbers of people help these associations through fund raising. In my parish and in many parishes in east Galway there are church gate collections every year to help them with their excellent work. They may have been forgotten somewhat under the health boards, but I hope that separate allocations will now be provided for each county and that these will be based on the assessment of needs rather than any mathematical formula, a method which is out of date and no longer acceptable. I thank the Minister of State for his attendance and hope he has good news for me on the allocation of funding for this year.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I hope I can assist Senator Kitt in this matter of great concern to him. I am taking this debate on behalf of my colleague, Deputy Tim O'Malley, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children. I will outline to the House the position regarding the additional funding provided for services for children and adults with disabilities in 2006.

Under the multiannual investment programme 2006-09, which is part of the national disability strategy, additional funding amounting to €51.5 million has been provided by the Government in 2006 to meet costs associated with the provision of certain specific high profile disability services. With regard to services for persons with intellectual disability and those with autism, this includes 255 new residential places, 85 new respite places, 535 new day places and the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability or autism from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

In addition to the aforementioned services, further additional funding of €22.5 million has been provided for 2006. This has been allocated to enhance the multidisciplinary support services for children and adults with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities and those with autism and to address core underfunding and core staffing issues in services for people with disabilities provided by the voluntary sector. Capital funding amounting to €45 million has also been provided in 2006 to put in place the infrastructural supports associated with the aforementioned developments.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes the provision of additional funding for disability services in the counties referred to by Senator Kitt. I am advised that the Health Service Executive's distribution of disability development funding is based on population considerations and on contractual arrangements entered into by the executive.

I suggest that the Senator should obtain confirmation of this from the executive in light of the matter he has raised. If he does not obtain satisfaction, he would be more than entitled to persist on the issue.

In these circumstances, decisions on the exact distribution of funding between areas of counties are a matter for the Health Service Executive.