Young disabled people facing 'cliff edge' of services

Young disabled people facing 'cliff edge' of services

Leigh Gath, based in Limerick, hears concerns about disability services and those for older people from around the country which she takes to the HSE for resolution. Photo: Brian Arthur

It is “disturbing” how little independence young people with disabilities are allowed, the HSE’s confidential recipient for complaints has said.

Leigh Gath, based in Limerick, hears concerns about disability services and those for older people from around the country which she takes to the HSE for resolution. She has received over 1,000 complaints with 320 highlighted in her recent report covering last year and 2019.

Support often “falls off a cliff” when people turn 18, she said, with prevailing cultural assumptions that people with disabilities don’t want to work or use what they have studied in school.

“Younger people with disabilities, especially those with physical or sensory disabilities, are not prepared to have a personal assistant to go to college and then be expected to sit at home with mum and dad for the rest of their lives,” she said.

“A day in the life of many people with disabilities is disturbing, it really is,” she said. “I don’t think people with disabilities are seen as being equal adults with anybody else.” 

Young people with disabilities tell her they want to stay in their homes and want to work. But a shortage of carers and personal assistants means in Ms Gath’s experience many are instead placed in residential care, including into nursing homes.

“There are a lot of very good people trying to do the right thing, but we are a long way off it yet. Personal assistants, especially for people with physical and sensory disabilities, need to be legislated for as being a right,” she urged.

She sees differences in access also to equipment like powered wheelchairs across the country. “At the moment whether you get a service or not and what type of service you get is a postcode lottery. Someone in Limerick may not get the same service as someone in Donegal, nothing is national,” she said.

However, she says the underlying issue is the lack of freedom given to people by some services. “I think people with disabilities don’t get the choice to take risks, they are told you can’t do that because it is too risky,” she said.

However, she has found a predicted flood of complaints about residential services, after the lockdowns lifted, has not materialised.

“Some families got very worried but most times there was nothing to worry about,” she said.

“I have to say the majority of the residential centres stepped up to the plate and really came into their own and did the right thing by people.” She said this contrasted with the situation in some other countries.

Leigh Gath: “I don’t think people with disabilities are seen as being equal adults with anybody else.” Photo Brian Arthur
Leigh Gath: “I don’t think people with disabilities are seen as being equal adults with anybody else.” Photo Brian Arthur

“That shows in the small number of people with disabilities who died with Covid, whereas in the UK they were the majority of the people who died,” she said.

An HSE spokeswoman said there is a national policy for community services but budgets and management for equipment are worked out locally.

The spokeswoman said situations are not “always directly comparable with another individual residing in a different area”.

She said: “It is unsurprising that to an outside observer the system might appear to be inequitable.”

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.