Hundreds of children with intellectual disabilities have been told that vital respite care services are no longer available due to deepening HSE cutbacks.
Inclusion Ireland and the Special Needs Parents Association revealed the situation affecting 300 families across south Dublin on the same day as the HSE warned of yet more drastic cuts to the overall health service.
In meetings with affected parents over the past two days, Carmona Services — which provides outsourced services for children with “severe” intellectual disabilities on behalf of the State — said it could no longer afford respite care support.
The issue is being repeated in other parts of the country, with 63 Limerick parents told last month they will need to pay out of their own pockets to keep accessing respite care from the Brothers of Charity, which has suffered €1m in funding cuts this year.
In Dublin, the Glenageary-based private firm’s Angels Quest section told parents the service changes were due to HSE funding cuts of €2.5m this year as a result of the health service’s wider financial problems.
Outsourced firms providing this type of service have seen HSE funding reduced by almost 2% this year.
The Angels Quest section said all other options, such as administrative cutbacks, have already been implemented and that if respite care was left untouched some therapeutic services would have to be axed.
While day services will continue on a limited basis, any affected family in the south Dublin area will be unable to access weeknight, emergency or holiday support — with any emergency referrals also blocked.
Carmona Services did not return phonecalls from the Irish Examiner yesterday.
Special Needs Parents Association chairwoman Lorraine Dempsey said removing the support would have a devastating impact.
“We don’t want to be held captive by what is going on between the HSE and the company, we don’t want to be outside their doors with our children’s names on placards. These children are profoundly disabled and families don’t have many options available when it comes to having a day or night off every few weeks.
“It’s not a simple matter of arranging a babysitter or sleepover as it might be for other children. These children have severe intellectual disabilities, some arising from complex syndromes and some children suffer from seizures and require medications to be administered.”
National intellectual disability advocacy group Inclusion Ireland said families facing the cutbacks were likely to be unable to transfer to another service in the wider south Dublin area as few exist. The group’s spokeswoman, Siobhan Kane, said the situation was the hidden result of health service cutbacks and meant children in need of help were “being caught in the middle” of the HSE and outsourced firms funding disputes.
“Respite is a very important service for families. Research shows that 64% of people with intellectual disabilities across all age groups, 16,000 people, live at home and not in residential care, so there is a significant level of need.”
A HSE spokesperson said 80% of disability services were delivered by outsourced firms, with the overall disability service facing 3.7% in cuts this year.
She added that “2% of this should not impact on services and needs to be generated from other savings and increased efficiencies”.
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