A CORK mother has welcomed a motion brought forward in the Dáil by Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns on the cost of disability in Ireland.
The Cork South-West TD last week brought forward a motion calling for the immediate publishing of an awaited action plan. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly informed the Dáil on April 5 that a working group tasked with developing an action plan for the period 2022 to 2025 had completed its work.
Cork mother Rebecca O’Riordan, who is a member of Families Unite for Services and Support (FUSS), said members of the group are “delighted” to see the motion brought forward.
“People with disabilities and their families are disproportionately affected by the cost of living crisis,” she said.
“The collapse of children’s disability services means that more families are self-funding basic equipment such as wheelchairs and specialist car seats than ever before. Specialist car seats that have a starting price of €3,500, but which the HSE appear to have stopped assisting with altogether.
“Carers are expected to manage to buy their own equipment and to fund their own therapies on top of all the incidental extra costs that come with a child needing specialist items, frequent hospital visits, and interventions.
“We have the lowest rate of employment amongst people with disabilities in Europe because we consistently fail to invest in services that support independence.
“The services we were told would return never did and now many are facing debt and burnout with no sense of urgency whatsoever coming from Government on when this ‘temporary transition period’ with progressing disabilities will be resolved. We would further welcome an end to all means-testing in relation to carers’ payments.
“Every day, more and more families are contacting us having spent years saving deposits for houses, only to spend it on accessing basic necessities for their children,” she said.
Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Cairns said: “Our motion is calling for the immediate publishing of this plan, which must be supported by adequate resourcing and a commitment to implementation.
“It is not just a matter of funding announcements, there is a massive gap between Government press releases and actual services on the ground.
“Recent cases of eating disorder treatment funding and other mental health programmes show us that funding can be unspent and reassigned.”
Speaking about the issue of staffing, she said that no service can happen without staff, without doctors, nurses, therapists, clinicians, management and support staff.
“Children’s Disability Network Teams (CDNTs) are unfilled,” she said.
“Our motion has specifically asked for a plan to fill the 732 vacant posts for therapists providing services for children with disabilities.
“It’s important to say that the failure of the Progressing Disability Service is no representation of the amazing staff working in these teams, we simply need more of them. There is a pressing need to address retention and recruitment. Excellent people, who want to help people who choose a caring profession, are leaving because of the poor conditions, low pay and plummeting morale.”
She said that the second key Government document is the Cost of Disability in Ireland report which she said was published in December “only after considerable pressure from disability organisations and opposition parties”.
She said the report found that actual costs faced by individuals ranged between €8,700 and €12,300 every year.
“Combine that with the systematic under-employment of disabled people and the massive unmet needs in care and it’s no wonder we’ve disgracefully high rates of consistent poverty and social isolation among disabled people,” she said.
Minister of State with Responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, said that ensuring appropriate services for citizens with disabilities is not simply a health matter but one which reaches across the whole of Government, ensuring that the totality of the individual is taken into account.
She said that it is “key” that the voices of those directly affected, those who use disability services and their families and carers, are listened to.
Minister Butler advised that the action plan is currently being progressed through appropriate channels in the Department of Health for finalisation and that Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte would be in a position to publish and begin to take actions on its recommendations “in the near future”.