Families ‘will collapse’ if charity forced to cut services

FAMILIES with brain-damaged children will collapse if a cash-starved charity is forced to cut its support services by 30% next year, an Oireachtas committee has been told.

The Jack and Jill Foundation, which helps families care for sick children in their own homes, said it needs an immediate injection of €1.35 million to save the state €15m in long-term hospital costs.

Jack and Jill’s founder, Jonathan Irwin, yesterday told the Joint Committee on Health and Children that the cuts in its services would be “brutal”.

He said it would cost the state an additional €14.7m in 2011 with an estimated 100 of its 320 babies returning to hospital care.

The charity currently receives annual funding of €560,000 from the Health Service Executive but a 25% fall in donations over the last two years and a 40% increase in the home service payments upset its financial situation.

The charity also looks after 81 children over the age of four at an annual cost of €250,000. Mr Irwin said these children should be receiving care from the HSE but he was not going to let them “disappear into a void”.

Committee chairman Sean Ó Fearghaíl said he would take up the case with the new head of the HSE, Cathal Magee, when he met him on Thursday.

At the meeting was Tina Priestly from Naas, Co Kildare, whose son, Bobby, had a genetic abnormality and lived for just 13 months. She said the service from Jack and Jill was a lifeline for families. “Families will crumble under the strain of minding seriously ill children if they can’t get a break.”

Mr Irwin said the average annual cost of hospital care for a severely disabled child, €147,365, was nine times more expensive than Jack and Jill’s home nursing care, at €16,422.

The charity, founded in 1997, has been raising funds from recycling old mobile phones and empty printer cartridges. Next month it will launch a crutches recycling scheme and will raise money from recycling the aluminium.


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