Thursday, 1 July 2021
Department of Health
The Deputy has advised that her question refers to adult day services for people with a disability, and also day services for older people, so I will provide an answer is respect of both. With regard to disability services, day services re-opened at 39% capacity at service locations throughout August and early September of 2020, and by end of January 2021 this had increased to 51%. The combination of supports in the location, outreach supports, and remote supports provides an overall quantum of support to service users of over 60% at the end of January. The increase in day service capacity was supported by additional funding of €30 million provided in Budget 2021 to increase capacity in buildings and provide extra staff. This funding provided an increase in day services by an average of one day a week for 14,940 people against September 2020 service levels.
For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency day service capacity is reduced, this is due to the physical limitations of the buildings available, the lack of mainstream community activities, and the continued restrictions imposed by social distancing guidance. Many people with disabilities have underlying health conditions, and as the threat of COVID-19 remains, unfortunately so too does the need for these restrictions.
The vaccination process for staff and service users is well underway across day services, and all service providers should now be delivering a minimum of 60% of pre-COVID levels of location-based supports. For those in residential services, currently their day service supports are largely being provided in their residence, however some service users have returned to their day service location, and it is now expected that all residential service users that received their day service at a location pre-COVID should begin to resume location-based day service supports.
The HSE is in the process of establishing the vaccination status of all staff and service users in day services. Once established, the HSE will engage with Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) on what further easing of restrictions can appropriately be applied to day services. Those attending day services have been vaccinated as part of cohort 4, people aged 16-69 years and at very high risk of severe COVID-19 disease. The administration of the second vaccine dose for this cohort began in the week beginning May 10th and is expected to be complete by early July.
The IPC guidance are kept under constant review and updates will be provided in the months ahead on further restoration of day services.
With regard to older person's services; day centres are fundamental to the health and well-being of our older population and play a key role in enabling older people to live independently in their own communities. The pandemic and associated restrictions has had a profound impact across society and especially for our older population.
All Community Health Organisations through the National Older Persons Office were requested in April 2021 to provide information on the status of their Day Care Services in order to ascertain the level of service that could resume on receipt of updated public health guidance. As a result, it was intended that approximately 100 day centres would re-open week beginning 5 July. It was also intended that an additional 55 centres would resume in July and August, with a further 90 centres that require works expected to reopen before the end of the year. It was indicated that these dates may be subject to change as the HSE continues to deal with the significant challenge of the on-going cyber attack.
Since then updated Public Health guidance to support the re-opening of Day Care Services for Older People was provided in June 2021 to facilitate re-opening plans. Following on from this a further information request issued to HSE Services to obtain an update on re-opening plans. Their responses are currently being analysed and further detail regarding the re-opening of services is expected imminently and it is intended that the re-opening of centres will commence this month.
A Day Care Focus Group which was established in 2020 will remain in place (representative of both HSE and voluntary sector) to oversee the resumption of day care services and provide feedback in relation to both service delivery and users of the services.
While services may have to operate at a reduced capacity, initially, this is a huge step forward in the resumption of day centres for older people. It follows extensive planning by the HSE and has been made possible by the advanced stage and positive impact of the COVID-19 vaccination programme among our older population.