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

Tom Moffatt


5 Dr. Moffatt asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has to propose a Supplementary Estimate for his Department with a view to tackling the inadequacy of the 1996 funding in respect of the care of the mentally handicapped. [8100/96]

Additional funding of £12 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. The remaining £3 million revenue funding provided will facilitate the provision of an additional 66 residential-respite places and 265 day care places as well as home support services this year.

Capital funding of £6 million is being provided, of which £2 million will be used to support general service developments. The remaining £2 million will be used to develop and improve the quality of training facilities for persons with a mental handicap under the European Regional Development Fund Assisted Programme. Some £2 million capital funding has also been made available to the Eastern Health Board in respect of the provision of additional residential facilities. This funding is being made available over a two year period with £1 million available in 1996 and a further £1 million at the beginning of 1997.

This funding will provide additional residential facilities on the southside of Dublin and will also facilitate the on-going programme of transferring persons with a mental handicap from St. Ita's Hospital, Portrane, to more appropriate care settings. I am also aware of the need for capital funding to continue the on-going maintenance and refurbishment programme in St. Ita's and additional capital funding will be made available in 1996 to enable the Eastern Health Board to continue this work. 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 was invested in the services in the period 1990-1995 which 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 services. However, I am aware that more needs to be done. 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. That commitment is reflected in my decision, with my colleague, the Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, to prepare a five year service development plan to meet the needs identified by the new National Handicap Database. I expect the plan to be ready later this year when the database becomes available. This development plan will play an important role in the Estimates discussions later this year with a view to having substantial additional funding made available in 1997 and future years for the continued development of services to persons with a mental handicap. Consequently I do not intend to provide a Supplementary Estimate in 1996 for services to persons with a mental handicap.

I thank the Minister and I am glad he has taken note of the situation in St. Ita's, Portrane, about which some time ago he said there was no problem. All health boards and voluntary organisations still claim they are getting insufficient money. Mayo, for example, got £80,000 extra this year. There are 90 people on the waiting list and 14 people awaiting urgent residential care. Given that it costs at least £25,000 per annum to look after one person, funding is grossly deficient.

The Deputy should proceed by way of question.

That extra allocation represents only a quarter of what is needed. The Minister is still not making sufficient funding available for services for the mentally handicapped throughout the country.

Significant progress was made between 1990 and 1995, and £12 million extra was provided this year. I conceded in my earlier reply that much more needs to be done. I would ask the Deputy to acknowledge that, with the national database completed and a five-year plan in place by the time the Estimates cycle comes into full swing, this is the first time a comprehensive census has been done to make an important distinction between present and future needs. There is also duplication in relation to waiting lists and work on these is in hand at the moment. In addition we are examining the care needs of people and the appropriate setting for such care. We will do a better job for people requiring services if we know the exact extent of the problem and plan within that context.

The Minister did not address the question of the Western Health Board. I understand the Minister for Health will be visiting Galway soon and will be addressing the question of services for physically and mentally handicapped people. As the Western Health Board is getting only a quarter of what it got for new developments two years ago, I ask the Minister of State, with his colleague, the Minister for Health, to provide funding for east Galway and south Roscommon. The Minister for Health met a deputation from the parents' council for that region a year ago. Since then the residential and respite care problem has worsened. Can the Minister say if the Government will make an announcement of funding either before the Minister visits Galway or when he is in Galway?

I do not want to discuss in detail the role of the co-ordinating committees because there is a later question on that subject. Each health board is given an allocation by the Department of Health and instructions as to the number of residential and day care places, as well as information about home support services that are to be put in place. It is the regional co-ordinating committee that decides on priorities within the health board area. The health boards decide priorities in the context of available extra funding. The allocation for this year has been made to the Western Health Board. I have already answered the question about whether a Supplementary Estimate will be introduced. The database will identify black spots in terms of service provision and help health boards and the Department of Health to focus on priority needs. This is a very important step forward which will help us properly to identify the most difficult situations, which we may not be doing at the moment.

The database has been available for the Western Health Board for some time and for the rest of the country also. It is not databases we want but hard cash. The Minister has admitted that there is not sufficient money. In the Western Health Board we have only a quarter of what we need in extra funding. I do not want to hear about databases. I want to hear about a supplementary budget to provide extra funding.


Hear, hear.

Talk is cheap, but it takes money to buy porter in the west of Ireland.

I did not present the database as an end in itself. I have presented it as a means to an end. If we can show that better planning and more comprehensive information will result in more effective use of funds, our case will be all the stronger.