Disability campaigners claim cash is held back

Some €83m earmarked for disability and mental health services has been held back over the past two years, campaigners claimed today.

The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) branded the alleged redirection of funds a scandal and has demanded Government intervention.

John Dolan, the organisation’s chief executive, said there was deep concern and anger over the impact the cuts are having on thousands of disabled people.

"To take €83m euro from one of the most vulnerable sectors in our society is a scandal and is totally unacceptable," he said.

The DFI said that €53m for both disability and mental health services was re-directed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) last year, according to the recent Comptroller and Auditor General’s report.

Some €17m, from a €50m multi-annual National Disability Strategy Fund, was kept back this year, they said.

Another €13m, worked out as part of an overall 1% HSE cutback for six months of this year, makes up the shortfall.

Mr Dolan said much of the funding was intended for residential, day care and respite services as well as personal assistance for people unable to live independently.

He demanded Government action on the scale of the unprecedented rescue package for major Irish banks caught in the credit crisis.

"Government does not run the banks, yet it considered it necessary to come to their aid in the interest of the country," he said.

"It is time that they take similar action and guarantee that disabled people get back the funding that it allocated to them."

The DFI said that it is demanding a commitment from Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in the forthcoming Budget that the National Disability Strategy is implemented in full.


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