Wednesday, 7 November 2018
Respite Care Services Provision
I welcome the Minister of State. I wish to raise the issue of respite care services, especially those located in my part of the world. I am sure the Minister of State is very much aware of the matter to which I am about to refer. The lack of respite services is an issue that has dogged our communities and society for a long time. At the beginning of the recession and under another Administration, there was a major cut to respite services. Unfortunately, we have never really restored the services that were lost. In many ways, this is a major issue to which consideration must be given.
I am concerned about the respite care services located in Garrettstown, near Garrylucas. The building in which these services are located is fantastic. It is a massive structure with a great deal of potential. There are more than 20 rooms in the building, which is located at Garrylucas Beach and which looks out on the most scenic part of the world one could ever come across. Currently, it is only open to the general public for four months each year. People come to my constituency office daily and weekly who are seeking respite care services. There is great annoyance that we have such a wonderful building and that it is only open for four months of the year. Families in the area might get access for four nights respite care. The building to which I refer is not open at weekends; it only opens on weeknights. People only have access to the service from Monday through to Thursday. This is a real point of concern. Our community is trying to get this matter onto the agenda. We have a structure with such capacity at Garrettstown Beach which is located in an area in which there is great need. How we can ensure that the service on offer there will be improved? In the longer term, can we move towards the level of service that existed previously? Before the recession and the cuts, the service was open for eight months of the year. As already stated, this has been cut back to four. Even in the winter, it is a lovely location.
This is about a vision for the building. I am sure that the Minister of State is very much aware of the structure to which I refer. It is one of the most wonderful buildings one could ever come across. For it to be closed for two thirds of the year does not make sense. If we could have a coherent plan to tie in the structure, the services, the service provider and the HSE in order to ensure that we can develop what is on offer, then the local community would be a lot better served in the long term. This is a conversation that we need to commence. How can we ensure that structures such as that to which I refer can be developed? In many ways, it is about trying to rejig and work on respite services. The Minister of State might agree that experiencing the dilemma of trying to access services is very stressful for families. The families in question do so much for our community and all they are seeking is a little more help. Four nights of respite care given to a family for one year is really not sufficient when one takes into consideration the great work they do on behalf of the State and the Government.
I put it to the Minister of State that perhaps we might look at developing a long-term plan and that we might work to ensure that the building and the project are included in that plan in order to ensure the extension of respite services and, more importantly, that the building will be utilised during the entire year.
I thank Senator Lombard for raising this important issue.
The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities that will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. We are particularly committed to providing a range of accessible respite care supports to people with disabilities and their families. We have always been acutely aware of the pressure on carers to which looking after people with disabilities gives rise. Such carers are often under tremendous strain to keep going. That is why my colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for disability issues, Deputy Finian McGrath, sought and secured an additional €10 million earlier this year for a dedicated national respite programme to specifically enhance respite services for people with disabilities and their families. This additional funding has provided for the equivalent of 12 new houses to be opened in order to enable carers to get a well-deserved break and to maintain their own health and well-being. One of these new respite houses was opened in Kerry on the 30 March. In addition, the HSE, in conjunction with CoAction, will be progressing the development of a respite house in west Cork between now and December. Discussions are ongoing in respect of this development. This respite house will be open to referrals for respite across County Cork.
Garrettstown is a regional respite service run by the Brothers of Charity in Cork in a rural coastal location close to the seafront. The respite service is currently seasonal whereby service users from Cork Kerry Community Healthcare can apply for short breaks during the summer months. The complex at Garrettstown is large and has capacity for large groups to attend simultaneously. As a result, it provides a true holiday experience. Families or service users can be supported in the peripheral facilities. In order to consider an extension of the service outside of the summer months, the service structure would require significant investment of both capital and revenue. Re-registration would be required with HIQA and the current model of service would require review and restructuring to extend services. Heating and insulation would also require significant upgrading. The structure is utilised by the Brothers of Charity to accommodate a small group of service users for respite in the off-season. One wing of the facility is utilised to provide this weekend respite service every six weeks.
Cork Kerry Community Healthcare disability service continues to work with the service providers to advocate for the further enhancement of respite services in the Cork and Kerry area.
I thank the Minister of State for his response, but I am quite disappointed. I am looking for a vision for the building. Previously, it was open for six to eight months of the year. Now it is being limited to opening during the summer months. We need to work with the structures and buildings that are in place. The Minister of State referred to an issue regarding heating or insulation.Addressing that would involve only a small capital cost rather than necessitating the construction of a new state-of-the-art building. I had hoped that the HSE would have a vision for it. The Minister of State is involved in this area, he knows the issue and the constituency well. We need to have such vision but from the response to this matter the HSE does not appear to have a vision for it. The Minister of State might talk to the HSE to see if it could have a long-term vision for this premises. The Minister of State has probably been to the premises. It is a large complex with considerable potential. There is great frustration locally that we cannot ensure it stays open more than four months of the year.
I thank the Senator for his comments. I am familiar with the building. As I outlined in my initial response, it presents a number of challenges. Reregistration with HIQA would be an issue if we were to extend the services there. In addition, some structural works would be required to make the building suitable for delivery of that service all year around.
The HSE is committed to advancing and progressing respite services across Cork county. I have been involved in trying to progress that issue in the constituency. I am glad a respite house will be opened in my home town of Clonakilty. It will probably open initially in Skibbereen and the facility will move to Clonakilty probably towards the end of 2019. We will have a respite facility for the county of Cork as part of the overall €10 million allocation that was made nationally. I was very glad that some of that allocation was made for respite facilities in west Cork. The HSE currently provides 182,000 respite nights a year. I am glad, as I am sure the Senator will be, that capacity is increasing in the constituency of Cork South-West. We can argue the toss all day every day but at least there is a capacity increase in west Cork. That will be welcomed by the families of all those people who require respite services. That will happen in December 2018 and the facility will move to Clonakilty later in 2019.
The house in Garrettstown will continue to play an integral part in the provision of a respite service run by the Brothers of Charity for four months of the year. There are significant challenges to enhancing it to the provision of a year-round service but it is one we can certainly continue to keep under review.