Written Answers. - Services for Mentally Handicapped.

John Ellis


116 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has regarding the provision of services for the mentally handicapped in view of the fact that only 66 new places are being provided in 1996, whereas the National Association of Mentally Handicapped in Ireland has stated that the national requirement is approximately 1,450. [1712/96]

Dermot Ahern


132 Mr. D. Ahern asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, there are to improve services to people with mental handicap in view of the fact that there is a shortfall in the service with 1,450 people awaiting residential/respite care nationally and 915 people in psychiatric hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1783/96]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 132 together. Additional funding of £10 million has been made available in 1996 for services to persons with a mental handicap. This includes £6 million revenue funding of which £3 million is being provided to meet the 1996 cost of additional services which were put in place in 1995 which included over 240 residential/respite places. The remaining £3 million revenue funding provided in 1996 will facilitate the provision of an additional 66 residential/respite places and 265 day care places as well as Home Support Services. In addition, £4 million in capital funding is being provided of which £2 million will be used to support general service developments and £2 million to develop and improve the quality of training facilities for persons with a mental handicap under the European Regional Development Fund assisted programme.

The latest statistics available indicate that there were 915 persons with a mental handicap accommodated in public psychiatric hospitals on 31 December 1994. This compares with 2,170 persons in 1981. My Department, in conjunction with the health boards, has been engaged in an ongoing programme to transfer persons with a mental handicap from psychiatric hospitals and other unsuitable placements to more appropriate care settings. This programme will continue during 1996 with the emphasis on the provision of appropriate infrastructures to support the transfer programme.
As the Deputy is aware, substantial additional funding has been made available in recent years for the development of services to persons with a mental handicap. Additional funding of £44.58 million invested in the services in the period 1990-1995 has enabled health boards to put in place over 1,000 additional residential places and 2,100 day care places. I am satisfied that this additional annual funding has made a significant impact on the number of persons with a mental handicap awaiting residential care. However, I am aware that more needs to be done if we are to meet the needs of those awaiting services. The Government is committed under both the health strategy documentShaping a Healthier Future and A Government of Renewal to the continued development of the service as resources become available. Comprehensive data will become available over the coming months from the national mental handicap database which will enable my Department to differentiate between current and future need. It is my intention, on completion of this validation process, to initiate a review of the implementation of both policy documents Needs and Abilities and Services to Persons with Austism with a view to preparing an overall medium term development plan for the services.