Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
438. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth when responsibility for disability matters will be fully transferred from the Department of Health to his Department; the specific functions and areas that will be transferred; the specific budget that will be transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27929/21]
The Government has agreed to the transfer of policy, functions and funding responsibility for specialist community-based disability services from the Minister for Health to my own Department. It has also agreed that the HSE will retain responsibility for the delivery of these services post-transfer. It should be noted that the transfer of these services does not encompass mainstream health services delivered to people with disabilities which will remain under the Department of Health. This is a complex transfer and involves amending primary legislation, establishing governance arrangements between the HSE and my Department and moving over €2.2 billion between Votes, while at the same time ensuring no negative impact on current services.
The services involved relate to physical, sensory, intellectual disability and autism in day, respite and residential settings. Services include personal assistant, home support, multi-disciplinary and other community supports. Services are delivered through a mix of HSE direct provision as well as through non-statutory Section 38 and 39 service providers, and a small number of private providers. The transfer of functions also includes transferring responsibility for the Commission of Investigation (Certain matters relative to a disability service in the South East and related matters) and the (Disability) Independent Appeals Office to my Department.
The transfer more than doubles my Department’s budget and as such, it is a substantial change in governance and administrative terms. It also presents an administrative and governance challenge for the HSE by having two departments to report to. The challenge for both Departments, and the HSE, is to ensure we set out clearly the boundaries of reporting and performance management relationships.
It is important to note that effective governance, underpinned by legislation, is critical to the success of this transfer and progressing the legislation without having all the governance risks and issues addressed is a risk to the project given the scale of public expenditure and numbers of service users involved (approximately 56,000). While Minister Donnelly and I had hoped to complete the transfer by mid year, the size and complexity of the work means that the required legislation and revised governance arrangements will be not be in place until later this year.
Both Departments continue to work closely in terms of completing the transfer itself, but also in terms of preparing for Budget 2022 in respect of the services involved.