Health Services.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this important matter which relates to a family with a number of children who have special needs and who previously were in receipt of a home care package in recognition of their special needs. As the pressure on this family was so great and in order to be nearer family members for support, they decided to move from County Kildare to their parents' home in County Galway. Unfortunately, given the current fluctuation in the housing market, it was necessary for them to return to County Kildare. The problem now is that their home care package has been re-allocated.

This is not a simple situation. It is one which the Minister of State might take up with his Department. It is odd that while previously the home care package was available to this family under the old health board system and that were it still in existence it would have been possible to restore to them the home care package on their return to County Kildare, that under the single health board now in operation this was found to be impossible.

I received a note in regard to this family from a neighbour who states that one of the children suffers from autism and kidney problems, a second child has hearing and speech problems and a third child suffers from chronic eczema problems that require the child to be almost completely bandaged and cared for full-time. The manner in which this family must operate is distressing. Both parents are teachers, one of whom has taken time off from work to care for the children while the other parent is at work.

When I took up this issue a few weeks ago, the family was not in receipt of a medical card although I believe they are entitled to one. The parents are devoting all of their time to addressing their children's health needs. I do not believe there is any more deserving case than this. I received the following response to a parliamentary question:

This family did receive home support hours previously and then left County Kildare and moved to County Galway. As we have not received an additional allocation for home support hours for the past number of years, we have been recycling hours to new families when they become available. This, in effect, is what happened to this family's hours when the family left Kildare. We now have a waiting list for children for home support and we are reviewing this service on an ongoing basis.

On 4 November I was told the family had been placed on a waiting list, that the service is being reviewed on an ongoing basis and that there are 27 children ahead of them. There were 27 children ahead of them on 29 September and as such the queue is not shortening. I ask the Minister of State, as a humanitarian gesture and in view of the extreme stress under which this family is currently operating and the fact they are caring for their family as best they can, to intervene and to make an exception in this case. Will he at least consider providing them with some support hours in order to relieve the stress on the wife in particular, which is enormous and will get worse?

I take this matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney.

I wish to emphasise the Government's commitment to providing a high quality service to all people with a disability. This commitment is illustrated by the substantial investment we have been making in disability services during the past number of years. In recent years, significant additional resources have been provided for services and supports in this area. The multi-annual investment programme, which is a key component of the Government's disability strategy, will by the end of 2008 have provided for 980 new residential places, 313 new respite places, 2,505 new day places for the intellectual disability service, 300 new residential places and 950,000 extra home care-personal assistance hours for people with physical and sensory disabilities. Funding was also provided for the targeted transfer of persons with intellectual disability-autism from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

Since 2006 more than €550 million has been allocated to the HSE under the multi-annual investment programme, of which €425 million was for disability services and €125 million for mental health. The Government has further emphasised this pledge to people with disabilities by allocating additional funding to the continued development and enhancement of services in 2009. In budget 2009, an additional €10 million was allocated to the HSE for services in the area of disability and mental health. The funding for 2009 will provide for 125 additional therapy posts in the disability and mental health services area targeted at children of school-going age. In addition, once-off funding of €1.75 million is being provided for suicide prevention initiatives and for mental health projects supporting service users and carers.

With regard to the specific matter raised by Deputy Durkan, I understand from the HSE that the person concerned was receiving home support from his local HSE. When his family moved to another county, the home support hours were allocated to other children. When he and his family returned home approximately one year later there were no unallocated home support hours available. There are many children with autism who require home supports and there is a high demand for these services. I understand the HSE in the relevant area is currently reviewing the service and expects to have home support hours available in January as a result of this review.