No excuse for cuts in respite care or disability services

Posted in Blog by saraburke on July 8, 2010

As people with disabilities and their families marched outside the Dail on the 7th July, those listening to the speeches in Dail Eireann heard reassurances from the Taoiseach, Ministers Harney and Maloney that no respite services for people with disability have been cut. So if we are to believe our political leaders that no services are being cut, why did thousands of people take to the streets on 7th July in Dublin, Galway and Castlebar? Because services have been cut.

  • Bawn Og respite service in Limerick shut three weeks ago
  • Two bungalows of self contained flats for people with disabilities in Swinford, Co Mayo have closed recently
  • Day services in St Louis Centre in Chapelizoid, which were brand new services opened just a year ago, closed in June because they needed to redeploy staff to keep residential and respite services open
  • As of next Monday next (12th July) the Daughters of Charity respite services on the Navan Road will be reduced from 7 days to 4 days a week
  • Ard Cuan in Cabra will close in 2 weeks (26 July) which provides respite for 80+ families.
  • The Brothers of Charity in Galway are planning to close two community houses at the end of the year (2010) and a 40% cut in respite care in 2011 if they are going to live within current budget

So some services have been cut and others are planned for cuts in Limerick, Dublin, Galway, Mayo and Sligo.

This is happening because quite simply budgets are being cut. If we take the Daughters of Charity in Dublin, last year their budget was cut by €3m, this year they have received a €4 million cut, on top of staff reductions and Value for Money efficiencies. The Daughters of Charity only heard about their cut in budget in February, and the cut of 56 staff in May – but they have no service level agreement – there has been no discussion with HSE management as to how best to do they can continue to provide the services they do without impacting on the people and families who use their services .

In disability care, as in much of social care, the majority of costs is staff, care takes people. The Daughters of Charity in Dublin feel they have no choice but to reduce services so as to live within budget with fewer staff.

So do these protests like this make any difference?  The disability protest certainly brought the cuts in disability services  to national attention. The government said it was not necessary to be on the streets, yet very clearly people on the streets felt that they needed to be there – because their family’s services are being cut.

And although budgets have hugely increased in the past ten years, but they were starting from a very low, non existent bas, it’s not like we have state of the art services at the moment. Families with disabilities have to fight for every service they get and also many people are waiting for services for residential care or supported housing or respite care.

Many of the people I talked to at the protest were getting just two nights a month respite care, ie they care for their adult children with disabilities, 24/7 apart from this respite care. Both they and their children need that care.

The reason these big voluntary providers are providing care is because the state never provided this care. In the past religious orders filled the vacuum and more recently families, friends and local groups have set up many semi independent homes, residential care and support services for PWD. These services have developed in a totally ad hoc, unplanned manner, and has never been reformed. And we  have no way of knowing about the quality of care that the receive as there is no regulation or inspection of care homes for people with intellectual disabilities. They are the only section of the population in residential care that remain uninspected. There are about 8,000 people with Intellectual Disability in residential care, 400 children in homes uninspected… Why?

Talking to people with disabilities at the protest, they are very clear that they want services provided in a different way. Currently people have to go to the service provider in their area and take what services are on offer. But what people with disabilities and their families would prefer is to have money spent on disability in a much more transparent way – so that they know there is €x allocated to their care and they have a choice on how and where they spend that care. Lets wait and see who is the right – the protesters or the politicians…

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