Disabled should get direct payments, says Minister

 

MINISTER of State for Disability Issues John Moloney has said he will draw up plans which could give disabled people direct payments to pay for services rather than giving the money to institutions.

Speaking following the annual general meeting of Inclusion Ireland, the national association for people with intellectual disabilities, Mr Moloney said individualised payments were the way forward.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is the future. I want to drive this idea and as part of a policy review, I hope to bring proposals on this area to Cabinet before the end of the year,” he said. At present the State pays disability organisations and charities about €1.6 billion per year to provide day and residential services for people with disabilities. Mr Moloney was responding to calls from groups who say the move would give people with disabilities and their advocates far greater choice in the type of services they receive.

Séamus Green of the National Parents’ and Siblings’ Alliance said it would also ensure that services fit around the needs of people with disabilities, rather than the other way around.

“This is about giving people with disabilities the kinds of choices and the kind of life that we have; helping to integrate them into mainstream society, give them a chance of a better quality of life,” he said.

The conference also heard that a 60-bed residential development built to transfer people who are inappropriately housed in a psychiatric hospital has been lying empty for the past year.

Plans for a modern campus of six 10-bed units on the grounds of St Ita’s Psychiatric Hospital was originally announced almost 12 years ago. Gerry McDonald, whose son was due to be transferred to the new facility, said parents and their children were deeply frustrated over the slow progress in opening the facility.

“These residents are living in out-dated, over-crowded conditions. The dilapidated building they’re in was constructed as a lunatic asylum in the 1800s. It’s totally inappropriate for the needs of people with disabilities.”

Mr McDonald said parents had not received any firm commitment over when the unit will open.

St Joseph’s Association for the Intellectually Disabled has also been lobbying the Health Service Association to open the facility.

Mr Moloney said he was unable to give a commitment on extra staff for the unit.