School-leavers with intellectual disabilities face ‘crisis’ due to funding cuts
Hundreds of young people will not get services to meet their assessed needs
The number of young people in need of day services has been rising. Latest figures show the shortage of day places is most acute in the west of the country.
Hundreds of young people with intellectual disabilities in need of essential day services are facing what parents’ groups say is an “unprecedented crisis” due to spending cutbacks.
More than 300 families whose children have finished school have been told they will not get a day service which meets their assessed needs. Most of these young people are severely and profoundly disabled. In practice, say support groups, this will result in vulnerable young people not getting vital occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and other inputs on a daily or weekly basis.
Paddy Connolly, chief executive of Inclusion Ireland, the main representative group for people with intellectual disabilities, said: “There are many parents who fear their children will regress in their development, including their capacity to communicate if the supports they have been receiving are stopped or provided sporadically.” Health authorities have been under mounting pressure to find places for some 800-plus young people with intellectual disabilities who have finished school.
In addition, another 500 people with intellectual disabilities who are finishing courses also require day services.
There have been accumulated cuts to disability services of more than 15 per cent over recent years. Service providers have been told to find cost-savings within their existing budgets to pay for day services.
However, several voluntary service providers say they are “cut to the bone” and have had to turn down requests from parents for vital services .
New figures from the Health Service Executive show most of the 800-plus young people with intellectual disabilities leaving school will get some form of day service.
However. almost half will only get a partial service, according to well-placed sources, while a further 38 young people have no service available for them at all.
In a statement, the HSE said it was working to ensure that the maximum number of people receive the service they require. It said it was making progress in achieving efficiencies and efforts will continue over the course of the year to maintain services at 2012 levels.
“The HSE acknowledges there are challenges for service providers in achieving this and remains committed to working closely with service providers to ensure that services are protected for people with disabilities.”
A total of €4 million has been allocated to provide services for school-leavers this year. This compares to about €10 million that was available over recent years.
In the meantime, the number of young people in need of day services has been rising. Latest figures show the shortage of day places is most acute in the west of the country.
Eamon Walsh of the National Parents and Siblings Alliance said children with the most challenging and complex needs were affected.
“Families here in Galway and elsewhere are very distressed and put to the pin of their collar. They’re left in limbo, not knowing what the future is for their children,” he said.
“The children affected are those who have the most severe needs and these families are under real stress.
“If they don’t get a service, these families will crack up and the State will pick up the pieces at a much higher cost.”