The closure of disability services has had a significant impact on people with intellectual disabilities, with many receiving little or no support since day services were suspended due to Covid-19.
These closures, in turn, have had a profound impact on people’s mental wellbeing, with increased reports of challenging behaviour, anxiety and loneliness.
That is according to Inclusion Ireland as it today launches a new report on the effect of the shutdown of adult day services on people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
People's engagement with their service in the months since the Covid-19 shutdown has been variable, a survey of 300 family members and 55 people with intellectual disabilities carried out by the charity found.
While some people reported regular contact, daily online activities, and some face-to-face support, more than half (54%) of those who took part in the survey had little to no contact from the service supporting them since March.
A survey of almost 300 family members and 55 people with intellectual disabilities found that more than 54% of respondents had little to no contact from the service that supports them since March.
Of these people, 5% were told they could get support in the event of an emergency or crisis, 15% had no contact at all, and 34% occasionally received a phone call to ask how they were getting on.
One-third of people with intellectual disabilities who responded to the survey said they have had little or no contact from their service.
Almost 40% of those who took part in the survey reported increased challenging behaviour, and one third reported increased anxiety. For 55% of people with an intellectual disability, loneliness became a significant issue when these services closed their doors.
A further 22% of people said they had regular contact and support from staff by phone, some 16% had regular online support for activities and learning, 6% had occasional home visits from staff and 2% had direct access to their day centre.
One respondent said they received "an odd text message, nothing else for 10 weeks”, while another described their support as a "box-ticking" exercise.
The survey also found that 7% of respondents had no access to computer equipment at home, 12% had no internet access at home, and just 40% had access to a printer in case day services emailed resources to be printed.
Virtual support does not work for people with the most complex disabilities and the previous service levels must be reinstated within public health guidelines, as a matter of priority.
That’s according to Enda Egan, the chief executive of Inclusion Ireland.
“People with disabilities and their families are seeing Ireland reopening and feel they are being left behind with no sign of services reopening,” Mr Egan said.
"The Minister for Health must make a Covid-19 fund available to ensure people with disabilities are supported to return to safe services that meet their personal needs in line with the plan for reopening Ireland.”