‘Time to get people out of institutions’

INCLUSION Ireland has called on the Government to set a date for the closure of residential institutions where people with intellectual disabilities live.

Deirdre Carroll, chief executive of the national organisation for people with intellectual disabilities and their families, said it is time to get out people out of residential institutions.

“For most people, services and supports, educational and employment opportunities, place to live and activities in which to participate are distinctly better than they were 50 years ago.

“But ‘better than’ is not good enough. We need to get people out of institutions. Would it not be something if before the end of our 50th year we got an actual date from Government for the closure of all large institutions?”

As highlighted in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, a report commissioned by the HSE is expected to recommend the closure of 72 institutions, which cost the state about €500 million each year and accommodate more than 4,000 people. Most are run by voluntary organisations and religious groups.

The report, carried out by Christy Lynch of Kare, a campaign group founded in 1967, defines larger congregated settings as living arrangements whose primary purpose is the provision of services to people with intellectual, physical or sensory disabilities where 10 or more people share a single living unit, or where the living arrangements are campus based.

In a first draft of the report, he writes that he has not met any service user in any of the large settings who he feels could not be served in a community setting, provided the right supports were put in place.

However, the report does say that those “left behind” in such places are more challenging.

“Sometimes, people who have never been involved in supporting people with complex needs in a small setting within a community find it difficult to envisage such a scenario,” the report says.

“Due to the low levels of staffing and the need to ensure that basic health and safety issues are addressed, some of the current provision tends to be very traditional in its approach.

“Investing in staff and up-skilling staff will be necessary to ensure that when people move out of larger settings into community-based settings the culture of the congregated setting does not transfer to the new model of service.”

Speaking at Inclusion Ireland’s AGM recently, leading economist Jim Power said €1.6 billion is spent on disability services in Ireland, and certain issues must be addressed given the lack of money in public coffers and that people with intellectual disabilities are living longer than ever before.

He said value for money will have to become the guiding principle, and that the needs of customer has to be the key priority.

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