FG mayor urges national drive against disability service cuts


A FINE GAEL mayor yesterday challenged Government policy and called for a national campaign against cuts in disability services.

The Mayor of Longford, Cllr Peggy Nolan, who joined in a protest in Tullamore, said: “They’re savage cuts, they are cuts that St Christopher’s cannot possibly deal with.”

Scores of protesters travelled from Co Longford to the Health Service Executive’s Regional Disabilities Services centre in Tullamore, Co Offaly, yesterday. The group from St Christopher’s Services in Co Longford, which provides all-ages disability services to about 180 people, were protesting against a 3.7 per cent funding cut.

Ms Nolan said: “This campaign has to be rolled out nationally. I’m delighted to say that I am supporting my county, St Christopher’s – and no more cuts, Minister. We just can’t take them.”

According to Ms Nolan, Minister for Health James Reilly met Fine Gael councillors and “knows quite well the effects these cuts will have on the people, on the families. They are affecting the family unit, they are affecting the wellbeing of the families . . .

“I don’t know how these people can rest at night, and Minister, with all due respect, I don’t know how you can rest at night either,” she continued.

Protester Liz Hourican claimed the cuts will have a “devastating” impact on families. She said respite had already been removed on bank holiday weekends and families now faced losing some midweek cover. She believed the HSE wanted to get rid of respite and introduce the host-families measure, which she believed was a reintroduction of the Share a Break scheme.

Ellie Shanley was fearful for the future of St Christopher’s. “There was a 3.7 per cent cut this year and a 3.7 per cent cut next year, our services will go because we are not able to take that.”

The services for adults and children at St Christopher’s were vital to the families, according to Bernard O’Reilly, who said “without it the parents will not survive”.

Of the 3.7 per cent cut, the HSE has said “at least 2 per cent of this should not impact on front-line services and needs to be generated from other savings and increased efficiencies”.

HSE Midlands is actively working with all service providers, including St Christopher’s, to ensure the needs of people with intellectual disabilities can be met, while ensuring the best value for money, a spokeswoman added.

She said the HSE was working with service providers and the National Consultative Forum to deliver efficiencies without impacting on services. “The HSE acknowledges the close working relationship with St Christopher’s board of management, service users and their families, who are willing to engage in both a creative and flexible manner in order to be responsive to the needs of clients.”