State fails children with Down syndrome

 

Sir, – I would like to support the sentiments Breda O’Brien expressed in “State failing children with Down syndrome” (Opinion & Analysis, April 28th).

The Louth Meath Branch of Down Syndrome Ireland is still reeling from a 60 per cent cut to a HSE national lottery grant, which helps part fund our Early Intervention Programme. The programme is provided to 52 children with Down syndrome in Co Louth and Meath and is managed by parents of children with Down syndrome on a voluntary basis, and hence has absolutely no administrative costs. The programme compliments early intervention programmes provided by State service providers the HSE and Enable Ireland. The cost of the programme in 2016, was €75,000, €30,000 of which was provided by the HSE, €25,000 in the form of a national lottery grant and €5,000 in the form of a section 39 grant. The remaining €45,000 was raised through fundraising by parents. In 2017 we received a national lottery grant of €10,000, a €15,000 reduction on the previous year’s allocation. This 60 per cent grant cut is indeed an extremely short sighted and mean minded measure.

Early intervention is critical for children with Down syndrome; if provided at required levels it enables children to reach their full potential, with a view to leading as independent a life as possible as adults. This would reduce the need for interaction with adult disability services in later life, leading to unquantifiable savings in future HSE budgets.

It is increasingly likely that the branch will have to reduce the number of home visits our early intervention specialists make to children on the programme for the first time since the programme began in 1982. This will have a detrimental effect on the 52 children who greatly benefit from participation on the programme and will increase demands on already over stretched early intervention services provided by Enable Ireland and the HSE.

In 2018 it is a national disgrace that the HSE can implement a 60 per cent grant cut to a vital programme for children with disabilities. On behalf of the 52 children with Down syndrome who benefit from this programme we call upon the Minister for Health to somehow source €15,000 from his departmental budget of €14.5 billion to prevent this vital programme being curtailed. – Yours, etc,

PAUL RADFORD,

Chairman,

Down Syndrome Ireland

Louth/ Meath Branch,

Wilkinstown,

Navan, Co Meath.