An additional and welcome €20 million has been allocated in the HSE National Service Plan towards services for children and adults with disabilities in 2015, bringing the total disability budget to just over €1.45 billion. A key feature of the overall plan is the emphasis on Governance and Accountability with a focus on outcomes which is a positive sign of changing culture within the HSE.
Lorraine Dempsey SNPA Chairperson stated that “ While further investment is welcome, due to sustained cuts over the past several years, the €20 million investment in this sector will only act like a sticking plaster on a critically injured patient and chronic deficits in the provision of disability services are set to continue well on into the future. Individuals and whole families futures depend on getting this right“.
The additional €20 million is to be divided up as follows; €6 million towards an additional 120 staff for children’s therapy services in the 0-18 age bracket to support the national reform program ‘Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young Persons 0-18’ and €12 million to provide Day Services and Rehabilitative Training for the estimated 1400 young people who are due to leave school in 2015, in keeping with the principles of the ‘New Directions program’.
It is also a key goal to address 100% of children’s Assessment of Needs within the statutory time frame outlined in the Disability Act 2005 which has been continually breached due to lack of therapists available to conduct assessments.
The ambitious reform programs across the disability sector leading to a person centred model approach in the delivery of services is dependent on having adequate resources and a more effective use of the existing resources. Lorraine Dempsey further added “We would have many concerns with regards to the feasibility of successful outcomes when waiting lists for therapeutic inputs remain in the thousands and existing HSE embargoes on staff replacement for maternity and sick leave are having a significant impact on meeting the complex needs of children and adults with disabilities”. While an additional 120 posts have been allocated for 2015 on top of 80 posts in 2014, the numbers needed in reality are in excess of four figures if we are to ensure that children actually receive therapeutic interventions rather than just have access to teams that deliver them.
SNPA awaits the publication of the Social Care Division plan for 2015 to examine the budgetary plans in further detail in particular, the provisions for emergency respite and ongoing respite and home care packages to support families and individuals with disabilities.