Vested interests profit from disability as cuts bite
Sadly, this is not surprising in a country where the political system, as described by Stephen Collins (Irish Times, October 13th), has the propensity “to be captured by narrow interests rather than act for the common good”.
It is unlikely that issues of excess, waste or accountability would have raised their heads if the Government had not run out of money.
The value-for-money review team had huge difficulty in obtaining information. Consequently, two of the review’s key priorities call urgently for better data collection in the following areas:
Inthe financial reporting system, where allocations and expenditure should be tracked and compared at national level, regional and local level;
In the service agreements, which should be streamlined to allow for immediate improvements to information gathering and performance monitoring.
The absence of such basic financial reporting for a billion euro industry is an indictment of successive ministers for health and their senior officials.
Much is made in the review about the need to move to a new system of supporting people with disabilities to live in their own communities with control over their funding – a system that operates in the United Kingdom for 30 per cent of people with disabilities.
Disappointingly, the review affords little advice on how this can be achieved, apart from stating that it should be driven through the service-level agreements and recommends further research and pilot projects.
The country is awash with such projects, the end results of which will benefit a few. But they will have little impact on the 4,000 children and adults with disabilities living in unregulated and uninspected institutions.
People with disabilities know what they need and spending scarce resources testing different “innovative models of support” or funding research of limited value carried out by the National Disability Authority is not on their agenda when personal assistants and respite services are being cut daily.
To change policy requires action by the Government at a national level. This needs strong leadership from a minister for disability with the full backing of the Government to stand up to the vested interests.
A good start would be for the same Government to cut its own and highly-paid officials’ inflated allowances and pensions, rather than simply talk about protecting the vulnerable.
Unless people with disabilities mobilise as they did last summer outside Government Buildings, this review, worthy as it is, will end up on the shelf along with all the other worthy reports of the past 20 years.
Deirdre Carroll was chief executive of Inclusion Ireland – National Association for People with Intellectual Disability from May 2001 to May 2012