Written Answers. - Mental Handicap Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

234 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the United Nations Economic and Cultural Rights Committee has taken the Government to task for continuing to place mentally handicapped people in psychiatric hospitals; and if he will ensure that this practice changes. [15286/02]

It has been the policy of my Department for some 15 years that persons with an intellectual disability should not be admitted to psychiatric hospitals unless they have an underlying psychiatric disorder which cannot be appropriately treated elsewhere. In the case of St. Ita's Hospital, persons with an intellectual disability are admitted to St. Joseph's intellectual disability service, which, while it is based on the St. Ita's campus, is a specific and dedicated intellectual disability service.

The programme to transfer persons with an intellectual disability or autism from psychiatric hospitals to more appropriate care settings is an integral part of the overall development programme for services to persons with an intellectual disability or autism.

Between 1999 and 2001 additional revenue funding of €9.206 million and €27.4 million capital allocated to the programme to provide more appropriate care settings for persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism accommodated in psychiatric hospitals; those accommodated in de-designated units, which were formerly designated as psychiatric services; and others who moved some years ago from psychiatric hospitals to alternative accommodation which is now unsuitable for their needs.

The number of persons with an intellectual disability accommodated in May 2002 in psychiatric hospitals was 485, down from 970 in 1996. This programme is ongoing with further additional revenue funding of €1.27 million allocated to it in 2002. There is specific mention of this programme in the health strategy with a stated objective to complete the transfer of persons with an intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals as soon as possible and not later than 2006. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was informed of this objective and its recommendation in relation to this area is one which the Government had already undertaken to implement.