Micheál Martin pledges a timetable for return of disability services

Micheál Martin pledges a timetable for return of disability services
File photo : Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has pledged that a full schedule of how and when disability services will reopen will be available next week. 

He also confirmed that a €20m planned cut to the disabilities sector will not now go ahead.

The commitment came as families and people with disabilities protested outside the Dáil, highlighting the fact services have been shut since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March.

Labour leader Alan Kelly highlighted how during the pandemic, the first groups to risk their health and gather for a protest were those impacted by disabilities.

“We are not going to leave these people behind, but we are leaving them behind at the moment. It is completely and utterly unacceptable. We live in a republic and we must treat everybody equally,” said Mr Kelly.

He added: “People need and deserve those services in the same way that schoolchildren need and deserve the reopening of schools. 

These are our most vulnerable citizens.

Mr Martin said the Department of Health’s disabilities section is working to reopen services.

Anne Rabbitte, the disabilities minister, said the 966 services must submit their reopening commitments on a special HSE website.

Mr Martin told the Dáil this schedule will be released next Tuesday and is important to the some 19,000 people waiting for information.

“I am told that adult day services will gradually resume during August, but I want more specifics than that,” he added.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall pressed Mr Martin about a €20m cut to the disabilities budget under the last government and before the pandemic.

“We know from listening to disability organisations that they are hearing on the ground that the HSE intends to proceed with that cut. The cut is not gone,” she said.

Mr Martin pledged this saving will not go ahead and services will be told this.

The funding to health services as a result of the pandemic is now multiples of that provided in the original health estimate.

“Additional billions in funding will be going to health services in general. That cut will not be applied,” he said.

On the restart of support services for those with disabilities, Mr Martin said: “We need precision and a concrete set of proposals to allow that to happen, similar to what has transpired in education where proposals have been particularly comprehensive.”

Mr Martin said that the overall point he wanted to communicate was that there was now “multiples of the original amount of money designated for the HSE and services in general because of Covid-19”.

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