St John of God pauses transfer of disability services to HSE

Ministers welcome charity’s decision to delay switch following funding breakthrough

St John of God Community Services (SJOG), part of the wider SJOG Hospitaller Services Group, is funded by the HSE to provide services to 8,000 children and adults on behalf of the State. Photograph: iStock

St John of God Community Services (SJOG), part of the wider SJOG Hospitaller Services Group, is funded by the HSE to provide services to 8,000 children and adults on behalf of the State. Photograph: iStock

 

St John of God charity has paused plans to transfer responsibility for providing disability services to thousands of children and adults over to the Health Service Executive (HSE), following a breakthrough in talks around funding.

The organisation had announced last October that it was issuing the HSE with a formal 12-month notice that it would cease providing services, due to severe funding issues.

St John of God Community Services (SJOG), part of the wider SJOG Hospitaller Services Group, is funded by the HSE to provide services to 8,000 children and adults on behalf of the State.

The charity employs 2,500 people and is one of the biggest providers of intellectual disability and mental health services in the country. It has been grappling with a mounting financial deficit in recent years, citing underfunding from the HSE.

The planned transfer of services from SJOG to the HSE, due to take effect on September 30th, has been placed on hold, following a decision by its board in recent days.

In a statement, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said SJOG had agreed to engage in a sustainability impact assessment process with the HSE, which would address its funding issues.

The assessment would provide the basis “for the organisation to continue its important service delivery role in line with a reformed model of care,” he said.

“This decision will avoid the disruption of key services for service users and their families,” he said.

The assessment is expected to include a review of the organisation’s substantial accumulated financial deficit. The process will run from the present until the end of next year, it is understood.

“We owe it to our service users to do all we can to ensure that our services are delivered in line with strong governance mechanisms in a cost effective and equitable manner consistent with care and support needs,” Mr Donnelly said.

“I believe this process provides a way forward for both organisations to strengthen and enhance these crucial services,” he said.

Minister of State with responsibility for disability Anne Rabbitte, said the process would aim to ensure the “financial stability and sustainability” of SJOG’s disability services.

“After months of uncertainty, I know that the service users and their families and friends will be relieved, as I am, to hear of the agreement between both organisations,” she said.

A spokesman for SJOG said the organisation welcomed the chance “to work constructively with the HSE on the development of this plan and the sustainability of our services.”

The sustainability assessment would aim to allow the organisation “continue as a long-term provider of high quality intellectual disability and mental health services,” he said.

A HSE spokeswoman said the positive outcome would “reduce current uncertainties for service users, families and friends and staff”.

“The HSE looks forward to the continued partnership and engagement with SJOGCS towards a stable and sustainable role in the delivery of essential supports and services into the future,” she said.