Up to 85% of disabled funding goes on staff


A GOVERNMENT study examining how €1.5 billion in taxpayers’ money is spent by disability service providers is expected to show that up to 85 per cent of funding is going on staff costs.

The details of the value-for-money report come as pressure is mounting on health authorities and the Government to find places for up to 700 young people with intellectual disabilities who require essential services when they finish school next month.

Several voluntary service providers say they are “cut to the bone” and have started to turn down requests from parents for vital services for their children.

However, the Government has insisted there is no spare money and has called on service providers to find more efficient and flexible ways of providing services.

The report, due to be published over the summer, is expected to show significant variations in the cost of delivering similar services in different parts of the State.

It is understood to show that staffing costs for providing disability services in Ireland are significantly higher than in other jurisdictions.

Informed sources say it will conclude there needs to be a better mix of skills within the service, with less emphasis on nursing staff and a greater focus on staff who can help people live independently.

This finding could have significant implications for staffing and potentially lead to reallocation of nurses to other parts of the health service that are badly in need of nurses.

These issues, however, will not feature in the report.

The report is understood to propose major changes to the way the sector is funded, with greater emphasis on individualised payments for people with disabilities.

It is also likely to suggest a move towards tendering for services on the part of service providers rather than providing block grants.

Many of these findings reflect those in an earlier report commissioned by the Health Service Executive into outdated institutions, or so-called congregated settings.

It found the numbers of nurses employed meant that Irish staff in disability services were much better paid than their British counterparts, earning an average of €54,000 in Ireland compared with £18,000 (€22,000) in Britain.

It also found major variations in the cost of care, ranging between €46,000 and €385,500 for each resident.

In a separate development, the Government, health authorities and the Brothers of Charity in Galway are believed to be close to an agreement on finding services for school-leavers with intellectual disabilities.

Families of people with disabilities had been told in recent days that there was still no guarantee that children leaving school next month would have a service.

As a result, many parents in Galway – and in other parts of the State – fear they will have nowhere to send their children, many of whom require ongoing support.

However, the Minister of State responsible for disability said yesterday that money had been found within the organisation’s own budget to source a service for school-leavers.

Kathleen Lynch insisted that no additional money was available for voluntary service providers this year, unlike last year, when €10 million in emergency funding was sourced for school-leavers.

“I think we have a fairly good solution for the school-leavers in Galway, but I’m equally saying that we need to have longer-term plans to deal with school-leavers,” she said.

“We have found money within the Galway service, and feel it will resolve the problem, but this is not a new problem. We know in advance how many school-leavers there will be and what services they require.

“We have to look at new ways of delivering services,” Ms Lynch added, “and that could mean putting services out to tender.”