Plan to move 3,000 disabled hit by funding shortages

Unpublished HSE report shows outdated group homes continuing to admit new residents


Plans to move more than 3,000 people with intellectual disabilities out of unsuitable institutions have been bogged down by funding shortages, a leaked report shows. Under a policy announced in 2011, health authorities pledged to close outdated group homes or institutions for people with disabilities within seven years.

This followed a major report commissioned by the Health Service Executive (HSE), which found that conditions in many centres were demeaning, with residents in some cases forced to wash in communal areas or share large wards with no privacy.

Time to Move on from Congregated Settings recommended that more than 70 “congregated settings” – or institutions with 10 residents or more – should be replaced by supported placements in the community. But an internal HSE report, compiled earlier this year, shows that many of these outdated institutions have continued to admit new clients, despite official pledges to close the centres down.

In addition, the monitoring report said expectations that the policy could be delivered without new investment “may not be realistic”.

It found that, between January 2012 and December 2013, 7 per cent of residents had moved out of institutions and into the community. But the majority had simply been moved to smaller institutional settings. Some 91 per cent of residents were still waiting to be transferred to appropriate placements suggesting it could be years before the policy is properly implemented.

Other records show that a State-funded initiative to speed up the transfer of intellectually disabled people has fared even more poorly.

Ringfenced funds

Inclusion Ireland, the main representative group for people with intellectual disabilities, said figures showed there was “no real Government commitment to move people from these inappropriate and demeaning institutions”.

“The idea that you can relocate 4,000 people who have spent at least two decades in care without significant investment is simply wrong,” said Paddy Connolly, the group’s chief executive. He said a failure to invest in the right supports for people being rehoused in the community would result in the process itself becoming abusive.

“People will end up in settings they did not choose, living with people they did not select,” he said.

In a statement, the HSE said plans to transfer residents out of unsuitable accommodation “will require a major change programme. This radical change is not the sole responsibility of the HSE, but rather a collaborative responsibility shared between the person with a disability, their family and carers, a multiplicity of agencies, Government, and society as a whole.”