Families to protest against cuts to disability respite services

DISABLED people and their families whose respite support is hanging by a thread are to take to the streets of Dublin this week in a desperate bid to stop further cuts to services.

Wednesday’s protest has been given fresh impetus with a charitable organisation warning that closure of essential services will force people with intellectual disabilities back into institutions.

Acting head of the Brothers of Charity in Galway, Anne Geraghty, said the Health Service Executive that sought €2 million in cost savings earlier this year had now signalled that it wanted a further cut of €2m.

Ms Geraghty, who was speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, said they only got news of the further spending cuts on Friday evening and, up to then, had been hoping to use a reserve fund of €1.2m to protect respite services this year.

“This has come completely out of the blue. There has been no lead up to this at all,” she said.

An emergency board meeting is to be held by the charity in Galway tonight with a meeting of families and staff to take place on Tuesday night.

The charity has 130 centres throughout Galway and provides services for 1,100 children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

HSE West said it was facing severe financial pressure this year and wanted voluntary agencies to work closely with the authority in protecting front-line services.

The HSE is to hold further meetings with the voluntary bodies in the region to discuss the final details of the cost containment plans.

It said the initial focus on cost containment had to be on streamlining management overheads and reducing unnecessary duplication of management and corporate functions.

Ms Geraghty said the cuts would mean taking a backward step of about 10 years and moving people back into institutions.

“It is just not possible to sustain cuts of that magnitude without affecting front-line service. There will be immediate consequences for our residential and respite services,” she said.

The national protest is being organised by Inclusion Ireland, the national association for people with an intellectual disability.

The organisation’s chief executive, Deirdre Carroll, said respite seemed to be an easy target.

“People with disabilities have been presented with cuts to essential services without prior consultation. The message will go out loud and clear at the gates of Leinster House this week that this is not acceptable,” she said.


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