HSE offered disabled woman place in nursing home despite wishes of parents

Health authorities are offering people with disabilities beds in institutions such as nursing homes, despite official policies which promote care in the home.

Support groups say the move is a result of cuts to key supports which allow people to live independently.

Johanne Powell (59) from Fethard-on-Sea, Co Wexford, said yesterday the Health Service Executive recently offered her severely disabled daughter a full-time nursing home bed in Wexford town.

Siobhan (29) is profoundly physically and intellectually disabled. A rare chromosal disorder means she is unable to speak and uses a wheelchair.


Ms Powell said the offer of a nursing home bed followed cuts to her income and support over the past year, including reductions to the respite care grant and the loss of the mobility allowance.

Cuts to service
Transport to her daughter's day care service in Wexford town was recently reduced from five days to three days per week, meaning she would have to stay at home with parents for a total of four days a week.

The alternative, Ms Powell said, was driving a total of 100 miles a day to get her daughter to day care where she socialises with friends and receives therapeutic support such as physiotherapy.

“She needs a social output and a quality of life. Otherwise she’s just at home with me and my husband. It’s not fair on her. I’m about to turn 60 and my husband is 63 this year. It’s getting harder for us to care for her,” Ms Powell said.

The Carers’ Association said her case was one of a rising number where inappropriate residential options were being provided as a result of cutbacks elsewhere in the system.

"Given that our Government's stated policy is to care for people with disabilities in their homes while maintaining their independence within a family setting, this decision simply beggars belief and must be reversed immediately" said Catherine Cox, the association's spokeswoman.

More expensive
The offer of a nursing home bed, she said, would also be more expensive than reinstating transport supports. For example, it would cost at least €55,000 for a nursing home annually, while transport five days a week for a small group of people with disabilities costs around €16,000 a year.

The HSE said it was continuing to liaise with the Powell family and a number of alternative options had also been put forward. These included the option of their daughter attending a day service closer to their home, or transport twice a week from a location 10 miles from their home, or an increase in respite service.

“These discussions are ongoing. Other options will be explored as necessary in order to ensure Siobhán can continue to live at home and avail of the appropriate day services,” it said. “There is no question of someone being inappropriately placed in a nursing home due to difficulties with transport.”

However, Ms Powell said the HSE had put her in contact with a nursing home in the first place. Another family depending on the same transport service as her daughter had also been offered similar nursing home care, she said.

Prof Gerard Quinn, of NUI Galway’s centre for disability law, said Ms Powell’s case had come to light as Ireland was poised to ratify the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. “One of its core rights is the right to live independently and be included in the life of the community,” he said.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent