Respite hours for disabled fall as demand increases

Huge variation in provision of respite hours in different areas, new figures show

The number of overnights accessed by people with a disability fell by up to 4 per cent in the first half of this year, compared with the same period in 2017.

The number of overnights accessed by people with a disability fell by up to 4 per cent in the first half of this year, compared with the same period in 2017.

 

The number of respite hours provided by the Health Service Executive to children and adults with disabilities is falling even though demand is rising, new figures show.

There are huge variations in the provision of respite hours in different areas, ranging from 12,400 hours provided in Galway in the first half of 2018 to none at all in Dublin South-East.

The provision of respite hours is seen as crucial in providing relief for families who provide care for loved ones with disabilities, thereby obviating the risk of the disabled person being transferred into full-time residential care.

However, the number of overnights accessed by people with a disability fell by up to 4 per cent in the first half of this year, compared with the same period in 2017, according to figures supplied to Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly.

Some 40,307 overnights were recorded in the second quarter of this year, compared with 41,635 in the same period in 2017.

Increased pressure

The HSE said the provision of residential respite services had come under increased pressure in the past couple of years. The factors driving this trend include an increase in the number of children and adults who are seeking access to respite as the population increases; increasing levels of complexity; and an increase in the age of people with a disability.

Because a significant number of respite beds are being used for long-term residential placements, the number of people with disabilities getting respite services, and the number of respite nights, are down on previous years, the HSE said.

Changing regulatory standards, including a requirement for personal space to be provided, have also had an impact on capacity, it added.

Ms O’Reilly said: “Those who avail of respite services will tell you that it is precious in providing their loved one and their family with much-needed rest. When provision is cut or reduced it has serious real-life implications for families.

“We need to see year-on-year increases and investment in respite services in order to provide for currently unmet need and future need. You cannot provide less respite to the tune of thousands of hours and expect families who need it not to suffer.”