Seanad debates

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

7:00 pm

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I welcome an tAire Stáit and thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise on the Adjournment the issue of respite care beds in St. Laurence Cheshire Home in Cork.

There is an ongoing difficulty between the HSE and St. Laurence Cheshire Home, where there has been a reduction from three to one in the number of respite care beds. This has serious implications for 28 individuals — the clients of the service — and their families. Families which were, in some cases, in receipt of four to five periods of respite care are now in receipt of one. The HSE has said to St. Laurence Cheshire Home and the families concerned that it is a question of funding and that the beds are there but that it does not have the resources to provide the necessary staff.

I will not give the Minister of State, who is sympathetic to the issue, a lecture on the positive impact of respite care. That is not what I am here for. We need to support the families. If we are serious about reducing dependency on long-stay care beds, we need to adequately resource respite care.

I understand there was a meeting yesterday between St. Laurence Cheshire Home and the HSE and that there has been some tick-tacking. To my knowledge, no undertaking has been given as to when resources will be provided for staff. I have been led to believe the HSE has asked St. Laurence Cheshire Home to reinstate the beds but no guarantee has been given.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children, Department of Health and Children; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Senator Buttimer for raising this important issue. I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney.

As Senator Buttimer knows, St. Laurence Cheshire Home is part of the national group Cheshire Ireland. The facility provides long-term residential accommodation for 30 people with a disability. Three respite care beds are located within the facility for people with a physical and sensory disability. St. Laurence Cheshire Home receives €1.8 million on an annual basis from the Health Service Executive.

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive met the regional manager of Cheshire yesterday and that the regional manager of St. Laurence Cheshire Home closed the respite beds in order to provide additional staff for the residential service at the home. The Health Service Executive has now given an undertaking to source funding for the posts required in the residential service to provide the additional cover required. In the meantime, the Health Service Executive is referring those people with a disability that require respite care to an alternative facility.

The HSE has also requested that the respite care beds be reinstated with immediate effect. I have been informed that the regional manager of St. Laurence has undertaken to report back to senior management at Cheshire Ireland and to contact the lead local health manager in regard to the reinstatement of the respite service at St. Laurence Cheshire Home.

As the House is aware, the multi-annual investment programme 2006-09 outlines this Government's commitment to a programme of revenue and capital expenditure amounting in total to approximately €900 million on specific disability support services. The bulk of this funding is being spent in the health services. As part of the multi-annual investment programme under the national disability strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75 million in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included moneys to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities to implement the Disability Act 2005. The Government is also honouring its commitment to people with disabilities with a further additional €50 million investment which was announced in the 2008 budget. It is estimated that more than €1.8 billion is spent on health and personal social services for people with disabilities.

Again, I thank Senator Buttimer for raising this issue and I trust the response will allay the concerns he outlined.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State for his reply. Will he get a guarantee from the HSE that we will have the same level of entitlement to respite care and the same access as last year?

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children, Department of Health and Children; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State with responsibility in this area, Deputy Devins, is unavoidably absent as he is away on Government business. However, I will bring the Senator's comments to the Minister of State's attention upon his return.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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As Senator Callely has withdrawn the matter he wished to raise, the House stands adjourned.