Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Places for Mentally Handicapped.

4.

asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the projected current and future requirements for 1,600 residential places in the Eastern Health Board area alone for adult mentally handicapped patients; the provision and planning which is being made; and the extra places which will be made available this year.

The projected requirement of 1,600 residential places for mentally handicapped persons by 1991 was contained in a document produced by the Eastern Health Board in 1981. This estimate was based on very broad micro information and not on an assessment of individual need. In a more detailed later policy document "Mental Handicap Services — Proposals for Change" produced by the board, they identified the need for the provision of an additional 281 community residential places. The board have detailed plans for the provision of 200 such places this year and these will be provided by the board and by the voluntary agencies involved in the provision of care in their region.

The board, with the co-operation of these voluntary agencies, is at present identifying the real future need for all services for the mentally handicapped in the region.

Is the Minister aware of the great degree of anguish among the elderly parents of mentally handicapped persons who are concerned that when they pass away, with the increased life expectancy of those patients, there will be no one to mind them? As things stand there is no national provision being made for this residential requirements and there is a substantial waiting list for adults over 18 years of age across the country. Does the Minister have any national plan to provide the residential places, given the changing circumstances?

I am quite satisfied that since this Government came to office we can stand on our record in relation to the mentally handicapped. We gave a 5 per cent increase in allocation in 1987 and maintained their level of allocations in 1988 and 1989 when other disciplines were reduced.

What about Saint Michael's House?

This question relates to the Eastern Health Board. The Deputy suggests they need 1,600 places. A committee they set up says they need 281 places and the health board are going to provide 200 of those places this year.

Saint Michael's House are not happy.

I am anxious to dispose of the remaining Priority Question, No. 5, in the name of Deputy Harney.