Disability provider in funding standoff with HSE

Camphill Communities refuses to sign service agreement until ‘adequate’ funding provided

A charity running residential centres for people with intellectual disabilities has said it is refusing to sign up to a new service agreement with the State until its funding is increased.

Camphill Communities of Ireland, which operates 15 residential centres and is funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE), is in a standoff with the health service over the level of State funding provided to the charity.

The organisation receives more than €20 million in funding from the HSE a year to run its services, according to its latest set of financial accounts.

Marie Keane, chair of Camphill's board, recently told families of its residents a "step change" in its funding model was "imperative" for the future of the organisation.

Camphill would be refusing to sign a new service agreement with the HSE, until its funding was increased, she said, in a January 17th letter seen by The Irish Times. Camphill was engaged in “critical funding discussions” with the HSE, “with the sole objective of sustaining and maintaining the integrity” of all its residential centres, she said.

The organisation had decided it would “not be signing the 2022 service arrangements until adequate funding is agreed with the HSE,” Ms Keane wrote.

A HSE spokeswoman said it continues to provide funding to Camphill, “on both a revenue and capital basis to maintain delivery of services”.

Both the HSE’s national office and its local community healthcare organisations were engaging with the charity, to “work to ensure services are maintained,” the spokeswoman said. Health officials met the board of Camphill last month, following which the charity submitted a financial forecast, which is currently being examined by the HSE, she said.

Camphill recently had to repay nearly €270,000 of residents’ money that was taken through a “flawed” contribution scheme.

Recent internal investigations found residents at several centres had significant portions of their weekly disability allowance payments taken inappropriately, to be put towards general running costs or capital projects.

‘Flawed’ contributions

The practice of seeking excess contributions from residents was “flawed” and lacked informed consent and proper financial accountability, reviews found. Some €269,685 was repaid to residents by the charity, with the help of the HSE.

Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte has sought a briefing from officials on the matter.

Camphill has said it had enhanced its internal controls and oversight of residents’ finances, following a transition in recent years from a volunteer-led model to a “nationally governed organisation”.

Derval McDonagh, chief executive of Inclusion Ireland, the association for people with intellectual disabilities, said those living in residential centres had a right "to live a life free from abuse, including financial abuse".

Previously, St John of Gods Community Services (SJOG), one of the largest providers of intellectual disability services, issued the HSE notice it was terminating its service arrangement, meaning the State or another provider would have to take over responsibility for SJOG services.

The organisation walked back the plans to transfer responsibilities for its community services last August, after the HSE agreed to talks to draw up a sustainable funding model, which are ongoing.