Disabilities charity calls for more than €130m in funding

Waiting lists for children and adults with intellectual disabilities growing, says Cope

Cope has an annual budget of €61m, of which €56m comes from the HSE.

Cope has an annual budget of €61m, of which €56m comes from the HSE.


One of the largest providers of services to people with intellectual disabilities and autism in the country has warned it is facing its greatest ever crisis if it does not receive more than €130 million in funding over the next four years.

Cope Foundation in Cork, which provides services and supports for 2,500 children and adults, says it needs € 34 million in additional investment each year between now and 2023 to meet its obligations to its service users.

Cope chief executive Seán Abbott said the charity, which operates centres and supports around the county as well as in Cork city, has 400 children awaiting assessment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

A further 1,350 children are awaiting specialist intervention following assessment, he said. And a number of these have been waiting for such interventions for several years, which is of huge concern to the charity.

He also said 174 adults are on a residential waiting list with many having nowhere to call their permanent home, while 649 adults have been identified as having “changing needs” that require further intervention.

“We are extremely grateful for all the funds we currently receive from both the HSE and the general public. However, in the 30 years that I have worked with Cope Foundation, I have never experienced delays this bad,” he said.

“As waiting lists lengthen we face the very real possibility that children who need support for ASD will age out of the system and become adults without having received the appropriate intervention and support.”

Mr Abbott said it is extremely disheartening for him and colleagues to consistently refuse help to families desperately seeking their assistance because they do not have the resources.

“We’ve people we support who are couch surfing between family members as they have nowhere to live on a permanent basis. For each of these statistics, there are immeasurable challenges facing these individuals and their families.”

‘Additional €34m annually’

Mr Abbott said the charity has made the HSE aware of the need for an additional €34 million in funding annually while the charity is also seeking to increase funding from corporate donors and the general public.

“Over 40 per cent of the adults currently supported by Cope Foundation are over the age of 45. The organisation also urgently needs to design and develop a range of individualised services and supports as that population ages,” he said.

“This includes the purchase of assistive technology . . . to ensure these people maintain their independence and do not require increasingly costly interventions.

“The people of Cork have been incredibly generous in their support of Cope Foundation since its inception in 1957. However, there has never been a time when that support has been needed more.”

Cope, which employs 1,200 staff at 13 centres across Cork city and county, has an annual budget of €61 million of which €56 million comes from the HSE, €4 million from other state bodies and € 1 million from public fundraising.