Written Answers. - Mental Handicap Services.

Peter Barry

Question:

272 Mr. Barry asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the hardship being caused to many families as a result of the burden placed on them in caring for mentally and physically handicapped offspring who are not in residential care, which is a consequence of the shortages in the funding of health authorities.

The resources provided for mental handicap services have been protected in real terms since 1987. This year approximately £140 million will be spent on services to people with mental handicap. Earlier this year I allocated £2 million for the development of additional services. As a result, an extra 149 residential places, 21 places for respite care, serving about 200 people, 442 day places and over 25 additional staff for other supports are being provided to meet immediate priority needs.

I am aware, however, that there are waiting lists in some areas and I have asked the eight health boards to prepare multi-annual plans in consultation with the regional mental handicap co-ordinating committees. These plans will be available in the near future and will be targeted over the next five years and will form the basis for the preparation of a national programme, to be implemented in accordance with the resources made available to me for this purpose.

There is also a wide network of organisations which provide care services on a day-care basis for physically handicapped children and young adults. Many of these organisations such as the Central Remedial Clinic and Cerebral Palsy Ireland receive substantial State funding mainly through the health boards. In addition to these services, the Irish Wheelchair Association operate a home care attendance scheme which provides on-going support for carers. Funding for this project to date has amounted to £300,000. Total funding for mental and physical handicap services through the national lottery over the past three years amounted to £3.3 million.

The MS Care Foundation provide a centre in Dublin to allow short residential stays for those suffering from multiple sclerosis, and in the process to provide respite for the carers. This project received substantial capital funding from my Department amounting to £388,000.