Autism service ‘confused’ after HSE pulls link

A support service provider is “confused and disappointed” after its arrangement with a Cork-based organisation for people with autism was pulled by the HSE — a decision that has left members concerned.

Earlier this month, Cork Association for Autism chairperson Mary Walsh wrote to members to inform them “with great regret” that an arrangement with Inspire Wellbeing, which was providing support services to CAA, would cease in March.

The CAA receives some €5m a year from the State to fund the services it provides to its members, and this funding is administered by the HSE through Cork Kerry Community Healthcare.

In her note to members, Ms Walsh attached a letter from Willie McAllister, national director of services at Inspire, in which he too expressed his “enormous regret” at the HSE decision to end the relationship between the two organisations.

Mr McAllister said Inspire, based in Dundalk, is “confused and disappointed by these developments”, and outlined a timeline of meetings between it and Cork Kerry Community Healthcare over 2018.

He said that as recently as November, Inspire understood it would continue in its role supporting CAA.

Mr McAllister said Inspire “is not entirely clear as to why the decision to terminate our support was taken, and that the organisation was under the impression that it would continue to provide support services to the CAA until a procurement process for the service provision has been completed”.

Anna Kingston, a CAA member, said the uncertainty around services for the organisation is concerning, and claimed there has been a lack of clarity surrounding CAA’s future following a report on the organisation by consultants Levatus.

“As a CAA member and a parent of a service user, I’m extremely concerned over what is happening now,” said Ms Kingston.

“There has been very little communication to members from the CAA board, Inspire Wellbeing, and the HSE as regards to planning for the future of the CAA, and the Levatus report reviewing the CAA services commissioned by the HSE has only been made available to a few parents and siblings in the CAA. The rest of the members have been kept in the dark despite ongoing requests made to the CAA Board to share this with us as promised,” she said.

The CAA board said it “is awaiting confirmation from the Cork-Kerry Community Healthcare as to the arrangements planned once Inspire depart on March 18, 2019”, and that the Levatus report was “a study into the management and governance of the Cork Association for Autism”.

“This is an HSE-commissioned report and remains, as far as we have been informed, in draft format,” said the CAA, directing. It directed further queries to Cork Kerry Community Healthcare. Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said “there will be no disruption or change in services for residents or people using CAA services”, and that all parties involved agreed Inspire’s provision of services was an interim arrangement.

“The assistance of Inspire Wellbeing in improving the governance and management arrangements in the service during their tenure is acknowledged and appreciated.

Alternative arrangements have been made for the management of the service once Inspire Wellbeing concludes its work under this contract, and there will be no disruption to residents and those using the service.

"We will work through a transition arrangement with Inspire and will be in contact with family members in due course,” it said.

It said an open tender process, recommended by independent review, is underway to award the contract for the management of the entire service at CAA.

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