Cuts to disability service providers

 

Sir, – In early January, in the same week that the outgoing Government held a special session to discuss the issue of disabilities, the HSE began to tell hundreds of not-for-profit disability service providers all around the country that the planned spend on disability services, contained in the 2020 HSE Service Plan, was being reduced by about €20 million. This cut was termed “efficiency savings”.

This was despite an additional €25 million being allocated to disability in the budget, only weeks previously. The Government gave with one hand, and the HSE took it away with another.

In the context of the overall health budget, a €20 million cut may not sound like much, but our organisations and the people with disabilities we support simply cannot bear it.

It comes after many years of underfunding resulting in deficits on our balance sheets, having to bear the cost of implementing new Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) standards and guidelines, being hit by massively increased insurance costs, and the refusal of the Government to fund fully the pay restoration for Section 39-funded providers.

As the general election was called and got under way, we took our case to political parties, and several have committed to reversing this cut, if they go into government.

In the meantime, however, the people who use our day, respite and personal assistance services are facing a reduction in the service they receive.

Further, if service agreements are not signed off in the next few days, organisations face a potential penalty of an immediate 20 per cent cut in funding. This would be the death-knell for many providers, and they are left with no choice but to agree to a budget which is insufficient for the services they plan to provide in 2020. Cuts are inevitable.

If the Dáil was sitting, we have no doubt that this issue would be to the forefront of its business, as politicians of almost all parties have recognised that this cut, coming on top of a decade of underfunding, cannot be borne.

But it is not, and that is why we are using your columns to bring it to public attention. We appeal to the Minister for Health and the board of the HSE to postpone this cut while the process of forming a government is being completed. Given the commitments which have been made by most parties to reverse this cut, we believe the opportunity should be given to these parties to honour the word they have given to our organisations, the people who use our services and the families and the communities which support them. If not, the hiatus created by the process of forming a new government will effectively mean that the voice of people with disabilities cannot be heard and acted on. – Yours, etc,

PAUL CASSIDY,

Rehab Group,

Dublin 12;

and Not for Profit

Association;

Disability Federation

of Ireland;

National Federation

of Voluntary Service

Providers

Supporting People

with Intellectual Disability;

Acquired Brain

Injury Ireland;

Cheshire Ireland;

Chime;

Enable Ireland;

Epilepsy Ireland;

Irish Motor Neurone

Disease Association;

Irish Wheelchair

Association;

MS Ireland;

National Council

for the Blind Ireland;

Spina Bifida

Hydrocephalus Ireland.