Transition to adult services worse 'due to Covid'

Transition to adult services worse 'due to Covid'

Patrick Dunne with his three children. His daughter Amy, who uses a wheelchair, had her transport taken away when she finished school.

People with disabilities are losing key services when they turn 18, and the problem is worsening due to the Covid pandemic, according to Family Carers Ireland. 

Carers highlight how supports, such as physiotherapy, speech and language and occupational therapy disappear once their loved one ages out of children's health services, leaving them struggling to find new service providers.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Patrick Dunne, who cares for his daughter Amy, said her transport was taken away once she left school.

Amy is now 18 and finished school in the summer. She is non-verbal and uses a wheelchair.

"We were always warned that her transport would be taken away as soon as she stopped going to school. She used to have transport to and from school in Celbridge," said Mr Dunne, who lives in Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Now that has stopped. "I'm a single dad, I've two other children, but thankfully I have the means to bring her and it's not too far away."

Mr Dunne says he is fortunate, but wants to raise awareness as there are other carers out there who can't provide transport.

He has heard of some families getting funding for transport to adult day services from the HSE, but many carers are too exhausted or don't have the time to argue with the HSE over it.

"Why is she entitled to transport when she's going to school but not to day services? Her ability hasn't changed," he says.

Amy also used to have a dedicated speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist and social worker, but as soon as she turned 18, she no longer had access to them.

"That all stopped when she became an adult. She becomes detached from the network disability team, she's no longer their responsibility.

"You do end up linking in with other services, but it's not automatic. Why?

Amy is 18 but she hasn't changed into an adult in the same sense of the word, she still has special needs. Why do all these services disappear, change and have to be fought for?"

Catherine Cox, head of communications and carer engagement at Family Carers Ireland, said one of the biggest pressure points for carers was securing places in appropriate day services and transport, as well as gaining access to vital therapies their loved one would have accessed through the school system.

"These problems unfortunately have increased significantly with Covid-19.

"Planning for this transition should start from the age of 16 and should be done in collaboration with the family and health and social services, to ensure that the person with the disability can move from child to adult services without this stress."

The HSE said that while family members were "encouraged" to transport the individual to day services, they recognised this would not always be possible.

"Whilst the HSE is not funded to provide transport for adults to disability day services, the HSE does currently use some service funding to transport people . . . as otherwise these adults would be unable to access the service."

"The capacity on transport funded by the HSE has been reduced since the onset of Covid-19. The HSE and disability service providers are seeking to provide as much transport as possible within the resources available."

The HSE said its service managers in each Community Health Organisation work with service users and their families to provide an "appropriate level of service" during the transition phase to adult services.

"Services include multidisciplinary supports, including therapeutic interventions, day services, respite and home support, occupational guidance and rehabilitative training.

"These supports are provided according to eligibility for specific services and within available resources.

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