A CORK charity that supports hundreds of children with autism every week has agreed with a Minister of State that disabilities is the “Cinderella” of the health sector in terms of funding and support.
The Rainbow Club, which was established in 2015, provides support to hundreds of children with autism and their families from the charity’s base in Mahon each week.
The charity’s CEO Karen O’Mahony highlighted the need for disability services to be taken on by the Department of Children and Equality to allow for increased support for services like the Rainbow Club.
Ms O’Mahony was speaking after Minister of State for Disabilities, Anne Rabbitte, revealed that she felt her job was being made more difficult by the fact that her portfolio currently resides with the Department of Health.
Government policy states that it intends to transfer the disabilities portfolio to the Department of Children and Equality.
However, it has come to light that the Department of Public Expenditure (DPER) is blocking the move amid concerns over financial reporting.
Minister Rabbitte revealed she is anxious to get the portfolio out of the Department of Health, as she feels she could do her current job better in another department.
Minister Rabbitte described disabilities as the “Cinderella” of the Department of Health, as it receives a budget of just €2.3 billion annually - a tenth of the Department’s total expenditure on health.
Ms O’Mahony said the Rainbow Club fully supports Minister Rabbitte’s view that disability services should fall under the remit of the Department of Children and Equality.
“She is the best advocate we have had in a very long time,” said Ms O’Mahony.
“Her vision is clear and there is no reason that she should be blocked from doing her job.
“It is disrespectful to any Minister to not be allowed to carry out their duties, especially when disability services have been non-existent for so long. We need her to be given what she needs to make changes that are vital to people’s lives,” added Ms O’Mahony.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “Retaining the services in the HSE will ensure that the transfer will not affect access to and delivery of specialist disability services on the ground.
“However, the assignment of policy and funding responsibility for disability services will enable a particular Ministerial focus on this area, in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, for which the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth co-ordinates the national response.
“Specialist community-based disability services include the services provided by, or on behalf of, the HSE to children and adults with physical, sensory, intellectual disability and/or autism.
“The Department of Health is committed to commencing the transfer as soon as possible,” the spokesperson added.