Stephen asked the Minister for Health

if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive has recently informed severely mentally and physically disabled young adults in County Wicklow and their parents that there will no longer be any funding to support the young adults once they leave their school at 18 years of age, and that as a result the young adults will not be able to take up available spaces in local rehabilitative training this coming September; if he will reverse this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29683/12]

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Minister of State at the Department of Health, Kathleen Lynch 

The demand for day services, including rehabilitative training, for school leavers continues to grow. The HSE expects approximately 654 school leavers will require services in 2012. This year disability services are required to cater for demographic pressures such as new services for school leavers from within their existing budgets. In previous years demographic funding was provided to meet this need. The 2012 budgets have been reduced by 3.7% and the moratorium on staff recruitment gives rise to additional challenges in service provision. In excess of 4,500 individuals avail of day services in Dublin-mid-Leinster. Nationally over 25,000 individuals take part in these day programmes, including almost 3,000 in rehabilitative training. Significant investment has been made in this area during the years, particularly in respect of young people leaving school. In Dublin-mid-Leinster 164 individuals will be leaving school in 2012 and a further 103 will complete rehabilitative training. Potential solutions have been identified for almost 80% of these individuals and considerable progress has been made.

It is not correct to claim that there will no longer be funding to support young adults leaving schools. However, current funding must be utilised to best effect. The HSE is working with all relevant service providers to maximise the use of available places. The HSE and disability service providers have agreed that families will be notified by 10 July if a place is available or if an individual is to be placed on a waiting list. Some funding will be made available through Genio and the outcome of these applications will be made known in the coming weeks. The HSE and disability service providers acknowledge that the waiting period is a difficult time for individuals and their families, but every effort is being made to achieve an equitable and sustainable outcome.

Stephen Donnelly 

This issue was brought to my attention by a constituent in County Wicklow who is the sole carer for his daughter who this year will graduate from a special school. With other parents, he met an official from the HSE who told them and the service providers, including Sunbeam House in Wicklow, that additional funding would not be made available. Sunbeam House has indicated that places are available, but it lacks the €14,000 required to fund them. My constituent also applied for carer’s allowance. I recognise this payment involves a different Department, but I want to explain his situation.

My constituent was refused carer’s allowance based on the Chief Medical Officer’s assessment that his daughter could take care of herself. I have a copy of the assessment made by the educational psychologist and a letter from a GP, both of which are ambiguous in stating his daughter needs full-time care. He has been told, therefore, that he will not receive carer’s allowance, even though he has submitted paperwork and clinical testimony that show he should receive it. A few days ago he was called by the HSE and told that it would read his letter in 13 weeks if he was lucky. The HSE official has told him he is not getting a place, but he has not been told that there are potential solutions and that he will hear further about them. For the small number of people in this position, I ask the Government to make a commitment that funding for rehabilitative training will be made available. We know there is funding available in other areas. The figure for public sector pay increments has increased by €180 million. The majority of State agencies under the supervision of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform have increased their stationery and travel costs. I ask her to commit to providing the small amount of funding the people concerned need.

Kathleen Lynch 

There is no way I can make such a commitment, as I think the Deputy is aware. Nobody will receive a definite refusal or placement until 10 July. We continue to work on the matter.

This is an issue that arises every year. I acknowledge what the previous Government did in this regard, but the difficulty is that a long-term sustainable plan was never put in place. This is not something that falls out of the sky; it happens every year. The Department of Health alone spends €1.5 billion on disability services annually. I do not know how much is spent on social welfare, education, transport or enterprise supports, but I know we are spending a significant amount. Equally, I know we cannot continue to have this sort of emergency arising every year. We must have a sustainable plan going forward. That gentleman and his daughter need to have security going into the future and we are working on that.

Stephen Donnelly 

The phrase was “demographic pressure” and, as the Minister of State acknowledged, the HSE is acting like it is surprised that these young adults turn 18 each year and that their conditions remain the same. What will the Minister of State and the Minister do to fix a ridiculous process that causes a great deal of trauma for the parents and young adults involved?

Kathleen Lynch 

This is no surprise to anyone when it happens. In fairness to the HSE, it has worked exceptionally hard since April to resolve this issue and we can see from the decrease in numbers that there has been significant success. I have just left the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, where a forum is taking place to bring together those with disabilities, their carers and their advocates to engage in a process which will give us an implementation plan for disability. It is amazing; we have an Act, we have strategies and sectoral plans but no implementation plan. We are now working on that and I believe it will give us a solution.