'Another 20 years before all disabled people can live in community'

'Another 20 years before all disabled people can live in community'

There were more than 4,000 people with intellectual disabilities living in congregated settings in Ireland in 2007. By 2017, this had decreased by just under one-third.

Moving away from congregated care for people with intellectual disabilities will take another 20 years due to the slow rate of change, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

In 2012, the HSE launched a report which aimed to enable people with disabilities to move from large institutions to their own homes in the community with the necessary supports in place.

Speaking at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on disability matters, Prof Roy McConkey, from the Institute of Nursing and Health Research at the University of Ulster, said there were more than 4,000 people with intellectual disabilities living in congregated settings in Ireland in 2007.

By 2017, this had decreased by just under one-third, he added.

“If the reduction of 30% took 10 years to achieve, if this isn't accelerated, it will be a further 20 years — 2040 — before congregated care is confined to history in Ireland. Can we really afford to wait that long?” he added.

Prof McConkey said there were consequences associated with congregated living, such as a greater risk of abuse, a greater risk of contracting illness, and a younger mortality age.

Intellectual disabilities

Professor Gautam Gulati, from the University of Limerick, raised concerns about the high proportion of people in prison, homelessness, and in the direct provision system with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities.

Nearly one-in-three people in Irish prisons screen positive for intellectual disability, Prof Gulati said, while the rate of mental illness in prison is four times that of the general population.

"We need to ensure Irish prisons are not in effect emerging as congregated settings," he added.

Disability activist Annmarie Flanagan said there was a need for a “paradigm shift” to view disabled people as rights holders.

She said the current policies have forced disabled people to feel “oppressed and depressed”, adding there was a need to legislate for personal assistance for these individuals.

Lynn Fitzpatrick, whose brother Bernard has lived in a residential setting for 40 years, has said there should be a choice for these individuals, including the option of living on a campus in a congregated setting. 

Ms Fitzpatrick's statement can be read in full here.

Bernard has lived a “full, meaningful life”, she said, and a blanket policy to remove these settings “has badly failed some people”.

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