Funding for Disability Services: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Billy Kelleher on Tuesday, 4 December 2012:
That Dáil Éireann:
recognises:
— the fact that there are over 600,000 people with disabilities in Ireland;
— the deep concern among those with disabilities that services affecting them may be cut or reduced further; and
— that it is unfair and unjust to cut services for people with disabilities;
notes pledges in the programme for Government to:
— ensure that the quality of life of people with disabilities is enhanced and that resources allocated, reach the people who need them; and
— facilitate people with disabilities in achieving a greater level of participation in employment, training and education; and
calls on the Government to provide the appropriate funding and services necessary to honour all its commitments to people with disabilities.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
“recognises:
— this Government’s commitments to people with a disability in the programme for Government, including greater participation in employment, training and education in accordance with a revitalised national disability strategy; and
— that around €1.4 billion will be spent in 2012 on health and personal social services for people with disabilities – this is in addition to transfers to people with disabilities from the Departments of Social Protection and Education and Skills and other Government services;
notes that the Health Service Executive, HSE, national service plan for 2012 has been drawn up against the backdrop of significant funding challenges and that while the allocation for specialist disability services has been reduced by 3.7% nationally, in 2012 the level of service reduction will be less than the level of budget reduction as a result of the efficiencies that will be delivered;
acknowledges that some reductions in disability services have been unavoidable in 2012 and welcomes moves by the HSE to tailor such reductions in such a way that minimises the impact on service users and their families as much as possible; and
notes:
— that within the serious resource constraints imposed by the current budgetary and fiscal conditions, the Minister for Health is doing all possible to ensure that as much protection as possible is afforded to the disability sector and the social care area as a whole; and
— the publication of the value for money and policy review of disability services in July 2012, which includes recommendations to ultimately move to individualised funding for disability services so as to provide greater choice and control for people with disabilities.”

Funding for disability services is a touchstone for the dishonesty of the Government. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, and leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, is strongly identified with this issue, having described it as his priority in government. He has reneged on the commitments the Government gave on disability funding. I propose to share with the House details of a case in point, which is outrageous. On 22 October 2012, one of my constituents received a letter from the Health Service Executive indicating that, following a review of the person's care needs, services continued to be approved through the home care package scheme and there would be no change in the services provided through the scheme. Only one month later, on 28 November, the same individual was again informed that, following a review of care needs, services continued to be approved through the home care package. However, the home help aspect of the package was decreased by five hours per week or one hour per day between Monday and Friday. The individual in question is wheelchair bound, cannot stand unaided, does not have any use of one hand, has limited use of the other hand and is unable to cook, get into or out of bed or attend to personal and toilet needs. It is an outrage that an individual in this position has been deprived of hours under the home help scheme. The decision is an indication of the extent to which the Government has debased the health service and demonstrates the dishonesty of the promises made during the general election campaign.

In recent days, I have also been contacted by a 94 year old gentleman whose home help hours have been reduced from five to three hours, a lady of 93 years whose home help hours have been reduced from five to one and one quarter hours and a gentleman of 75 years who recently suffered a bad fall and whose hours have been reduced from five to one and a half hours. These three cases give an indication of the disgraceful manner in which disabled people are being treated by the Government. I support the motion.

It is widely accepted that marginal increases in funding to disability services during the so-called boom were offset against an historically low starting point. Budgets since 2009 have brought about a major reduction in health expenditure and, subsequently, cuts in funding to disability services. The impacts of these cuts range from the postponement of the development of existing services and reductions in expenditure on capital items to the non-replacement of staff and reductions in new service development. People with disabilities are now two and a half times less likely to be employed and more than twice as likely to be at risk of poverty. These figures refer to the official measures of poverty. If the Government continues with its current measures, the impact on the quality of life of the 13% of the population who have disabilities will be nothing short of catastrophic.

While the programme for Government contains a promise to ensure the quality of life of people with disability will be enhanced, budgetary measures introduced since the Government came to power have worsened the position for a sector that has experienced cuts in funding of approximately 20% in recent years. In addition to experiencing a deterioration in the services and supports they need, those who require disability and mental health services are also living under the weight of general cutbacks and restrictions implemented as a result of the recession. They and their families are, if one likes, experiencing a twofold recession.

Unfortunately, I only have time to refer to a small number of statistics relating to disability services. For example, 14% of all pensioners with disabilities do not receive any support services thanks largely to cuts in home help hours. The Irish Wheelchair Association reports the astonishing statistic that the unmet annual need for personal assistant services for people with physical and sensory disabilities alone is in excess of 520,000 hours. Further, one in four young adults with intellectual disabilities or autism who left secondary school this year did not have any further education, training or day service replacement in September. In addition, the waiting list for residential care among people with intellectual disabilities currently stands at approximately 4,000. Decisions made this week will have devastating effects on the quality of life of people with disabilities long past the lifetime of this Government.

With the budget only a couple of hours away, this motion provides a good opportunity for Deputies to highlight the issue of services for people with disabilities. The Fianna Fáil Party has taken a politically cynical and disingenuous approach to this matter given that it was responsible for many of the cuts of recent years. For example, the previous Fianna Fáil led Government reduced expenditure on disability services by 10% in its final two budgets.

The Government amendment "acknowledges that some reductions in disability services have been unavoidable in 2012" and states the "Minister for Health is doing all possible to ensure that as much protection as possible is afforded to the disability sector and the social care area as a whole". This will not give confidence to people with disabilities that it will protect their services.

As Deputy Halligan noted, earlier funding increases for disability services must be viewed in the context of the very low base from which they started. The personal assistant service was first introduced 25 years ago and has been developed in recent years. Between 600,000 and 700,000 people with disabilities rely on disability services to help them get up in the morning, eat, dress, go to work and play a role in society. They need to hear from the Government that funding for their services will be protected in this and future budgets. Without such an assurance, they will experience stress and anxiety as they worry every day about where the next cut will come from and whether their personal assistant hours will be reduced. Cuts in funding for people with disability and other vulnerable persons should be stopped. This funding must be ring-fenced and guaranteed.

The Government must ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Ratification is part and parcel of the disability strategy. I learned with sadness today that the US Senate decided not to ratify the convention yesterday, which was a bad day for people with disability in the United States.

One of the features of this Government has been its habit of redefining language. As words no longer have their intended meaning, people must listen and reinterpret them. Nowhere can this be seen better than in the areas of disability and mental health. The most common phrase the Government uses to describe its ultimate objective is that it will "protect the vulnerable", yet domiciliary care payments have been severely cut.

Home help hours have been cut to the point at which the service has become robotic. How is a vulnerable person who cannot even get out of bed supposed to go to the shops? Ambulance services, the carer's allowance and the chaos around the processing of same are all features of this.

Often, the cut to home help hours does not make sense in a cost-benefit analysis. According to the Centre for Independent Living, CIL, which protested outside Leinster House's gates in August due to cuts in hours, if services were provided directly, they would cost multiples of what is spent on home help.

The cuts to domiciliary care payments started in 2009, predating this Government. However, they have continued. Even children with conditions that will not improve are subject to reviews, which is cynical.

I know of a couple of cases. For example, I have been following a case of a parent who is seeking occupational therapy for a child with autism. The parent was told that the child could not receive it because another support service was providing it. The child has been discharged from the service and will only be provided with it if he or she is an inpatient case. This means that the parent is running around in circles seeking a service that should be available. There should be safeguards to ensure that these services are provided. It is being delivered in a dishonest way.

The ambulance service has been scaled back considerably. I have seen this happen in my area. Transport may only be provided if, in the clinician's view, the patient would be unable to make the journey without clinical assistance or where the patient must be transported on a stretcher. In the past two weeks, I have dealt with a case about which the doctor involved was tearing his hair out. A man aged more than 90 years suffered complications after an operation, but it took a week to get an ambulance to bring him to hospital. If this is the type of service that we are providing to vulnerable people, we need to question what we mean by "vulnerable".

I call Deputy Jerry Buttimer, who is sharing time with Deputies Gerald Nash, Simon Harris, Áine Collins, Jack Wall and Eamonn Maloney. The Deputies will have five minutes each.

In 2012 we, as a Government and a State, spent €1.4 billion on people with disabilities. This debate is about people with disabilities and their families. It is not always about money, but it is about how we allocate resources while respecting the rights and needs of service users and people with disabilities, which is what this motion should be about. It is cynical of Fianna Fáil to table this motion, given its record in government for 14 years.

The programme for Government in its content and delivery is strong in its commitment to people with disabilities. I commend the Minister of State with responsibility for disability services, Deputy Kathleen Lynch. Due to her knowledge, experience and leadership of the Department in this regard, we will see reform, a continuum of change and an evolution of policy that will have at its core people with disabilities. In everything we try to do in politics and in government, it is important to keep service users at the core. It is a question of their needs. It is also important that we listen to and engage with people with disabilities. I welcome the fact that, in the delivery of the value for money report and the policy review of disability services, the Minister of State will engage with people.

With many of my colleagues, I spoke with members of the COPE Foundation about its pre-budget submission. To give the Minister of State, Deputy White, a flavour, the COPE Foundation is a service provider in Cork that deals with 2,150 people. The quality and quantity of its services, the evolution of its facilities and the continuum of care provided by it are extraordinary. In a five-year period, it has seen a reduction in its budget and an increase in the number of people availing of its service from 1,700 to 2,150. Despite having €4.5 million less and a reduction in staff numbers, the COPE Foundation continues to provide an excellent service to people who need it. This shows that we can make a change.

In supporting what the COPE Foundation has done and is doing, we must consider value for money. If our assertion is that more must be done with less, the COPE Foundation has done that. The main issue is that, as 85% of its budget relates to pay and cannot be touched because of the Croke Park deal, it must find savings from the 15% of its budget that involves transport, energy, food, medicines and maintenance. This will impact on those who require its services and their families. If one views the COPE Foundation as an example of what is occurring across the country, one must recognise that significant challenges are being met.

In the value for money report on and policy review of disability services, we must protect and support organisations such as the COPE Foundation that live within budget, provide extra services and, as the COPE Foundation does, facilitate and cater for people with disabilities, be they early school leavers or people involved in crisis situations. The COPE Foundation is an example of an organisation that has seen no closures, no changes, no charges and no deficits. It must be looked after, as it is the benchmark for value for money, good management and providing for families and service users.

In the minute that is left to me, I will refer to Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Ballincollig where families are concerned about changes to therapy interventions and the impact of same on the children who need them. The people with whom I have spoken would like to know whether there will be a service and whether the changes will impact on their children severely.

In this debate on disability, parents need to know that there will be a service, that access will not be a problem and that provision will be made to have their opinions listened to. They must plan. Disability is from the cradle to the grave and affects people who need all of our care.

I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, on her work. I also commend the programme for Government. This issue is about people and delivering a continuum of care like the COPE Foundation's model, which has the person with a disability at the core.

None of the Deputies present would disagree on what our main objectives should be in terms of people with disabilities. We all recall when Ireland hosted the Special Olympics in the mid-2000s. It was an extraordinary time for our country. Our then President, Mary McAleese, regularly refers to it as "Ireland at its superb best". What made it particularly special was how communities opened up and took in athletes, their coaches and their families from across the world. Some people viewed this as a great act of generosity on Ireland's part. In many ways, it was, but we, as a country, were the ones who gained. For the first time, the scales fell from our eyes and the event helped to challenge some widely held misconceptions about disability. Importantly, it challenged prejudice. It asked questions of the sort of paternalistic way that we as a society viewed people with disabilities. We realised that there was nothing special about people with disabilities playing a full part in our community and that, far from being extraordinary, it should be considered to be the norm in any republic worth the name. We came to focus on possibility, not disability, and on potential, not problems.

However, do we, as a State, show true solidarity with all of our citizens, treat everyone as equals and view everyone as a valuable resource who can contribute to society or do we treat such people as an issue to be addressed? As I stated initially, there will be little division over what we should be doing - we must do all in our power to assist, where required, with independent living for people with intellectual or physical disabilities. Despite the awful economic circumstances, some progress has been made and continues to be made in this respect.

That said, it would be remiss of me not to put on record my disgust at the way in which some people who have access to personal assistants were treated by the State just a few short months ago. Clearly, this issue has been resolved, but I was horrified at the time, and not just at the attempt to cut off a lifeline that enabled people to play a full and active role in society and the economy.

A lack of understanding was expressed by some who should know better of the function of personal assistants. It is not a variant of the home help service; it is much more than that. While there will always be a requirement for institutional or group services, we have begun the journey of moving towards a more individualised and person-centred model which will avoid the inevitable pitfalls of the one-size-fits-all approach that has been endemic for a long time. However, in cases where residential care is required, it must be of the highest standard and the standards should be monitored and maintained. HIQA, which has already proven its merit and shown its teeth on the monitoring of nursing homes, will have primary responsibility in this area. It has already provided draft national standards to be finalised in the new year and backed up with legislation to which we all look forward.

When we came into government we pledged to consult with all interested parties to publish a plan for the national disability strategy. That process is already under way. The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, has already formed a strategy implementation group and convened a disability forum under the aegis of the National Disability Authority, NDA. Ireland has made progress in how we treat our citizens with disabilities. In fairness to my colleagues opposite, much of the progress was made on their watch and they must be commended for it. It is our task now to continue that work and improve upon it. We cannot allow any slippage at this juncture. We must continue to move forward. I believe that under the leadership of the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, we will do that.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, for being present for the debate. I commend Fianna Fáil for tabling the motion because it affords Members on all sides of the House who are united in our desire to improve disability services with an opportunity to have an honest debate, which is important. It greatly angers people with disabilities when the debate is reduced to one about social welfare cheques. There is no doubt that social welfare payments such as domiciliary care allowance, disability allowance and carer’s allowance are vital to many people. All too often the culture and viewpoint in this House, and often in broader society, is that the State writes the cheque, hands it to the person with a disability and it is a case of job done, social conscience eased; we have done our bit. We must stop talking about people with disabilities as charity cases. I accept the payments are vital as financial assistance is needed but it is a rights agenda and a programme of reform on which we must focus.

I have a relative with special educational needs who was born and grew up in this country at a time of economic boom. When Fianna Fáil was in government disability services were well funded. We also have that aim. However, my relative could not access many of the services he needed. People with disabilities will explain that even when the country was flush with money - when it was thrown around like confetti - there was still an issue with disability services. The point is that we do not have the luxury of throwing more money at services, nor do people with disabilities want that to be done; they want us to listen and to pursue and progress a rights-based agenda that recognises that the needs of people with disabilities go above and beyond a weekly or monthly social welfare payment.

On the need for a more joined-up approach, I welcome the fact that we have a Minister of State with responsibility for disability but I find it astonishing that the Minister of State is not assigned to some Departments that are relevant to the area of disability. It is a whole-of-government issue that concerns the Departments of Education and Skills, Justice and Equality, Health, Children and Youth Affairs, Social Protection, Transport, Tourism and Sport, and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, yet the Minister of State with responsibility for disability, whoever he or she is – it is not a personal comment - all too often is not linked into the Departments as well as he or she should be. That is a matter we must examine. We could have all the strategies we want but when political decisions are made in particular in the area of access to education, jobs and enterprise, the Minister of State with responsibility for disability must be heard.

Deputy Nash alluded to the disgraceful incident of people with disabilities feeling they had to camp overnight outside Government Buildings on the proposed changes to personal assistance. That should never have arisen. The matter was handled very badly. There is no doubt that it was wrong, but what was interesting and the potential good that emerged is that when I was on my local radio talking to a man who had camped outside he said that he knew the status quo could not continue and that there would have to be changes and reform. He said that the Government should talk to them and that they could show where the savings could be made. That is the problem; there have been blunt cuts by all parties in government in recent years rather than an examination of how to reform the services.

I welcome the policy review on the domiciliary care allowance, which at present is not fit for purpose. Families with children on the autistic spectrum cannot access it. That is not due to some inherent cruelty in the Department but because the application form does not work. The criteria must be examined. We must look at the transition from domiciliary care allowance, DCA, to disability allowance, DA. For example, should a 16-year old with high functioning autism in full-time education have to sign off the DCA and go onto the DA or should they stay on the DCA until they leave the school system? Is our SNA scheme fit for purpose? It is about care needs. One of the criteria in the job description for an SNA is cleaning the classroom and photocopying. We must examine whether we need a teaching assistant and if we could learn from other countries in Europe. I spoke to the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, about that at the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection.

We must also examine capacity legislation. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, is working on the mental capacity legislation. We must plan better for school leavers with intellectual disabilities. The big rush that has been happening every summer in recent years – the funding situation has made it worse – to find places is unacceptable. We must move to a system of personalised budgets and examine the type of place a person wants and give him or her the dignity to choose the place rather than assigning the money to a service provider and having people with disabilities and their family running around trying to find a place for the sake of it.

I wish to share time with Deputy Michael Creed.

Deputy Creed will speak first.

I welcome the motion and thank Deputy Kelleher for bringing it before the House. It is imperative that funding for the disability sector is on the basis of efficiency and transparency. The 61 voluntary bodies delivering services for people with disabilities are represented by an umbrella organisation, the National Federation of Disability Bodies. We have both efficient and inefficient bodies. The Department has the information in-house as to who runs an efficient operation. Some organisations have taken significant cuts in funding in recent years and are delivering services for more people, doing more for less, which is the mantra by which we must all abide today. However, there are other organisations within the federation that are doing less with more than other organisations. It is time that we got tough with the organisations that are inefficient and that do not tell us the salary levels that apply. We must have such transparency in terms of funding and the unit cost in order that we can compare like with like for residential placements or day care. The Department and the HSE have the information.

I implore the Minister of State not to proceed further with the percentage across-the-board cut in funding which discriminates unfairly against certain organisations. Deputies Moynihan and Collins know St. Joseph’s Foundation in Charleville and the COPE Foundation in Cork are among the most efficient. It would be unfair to cut their budgets when other organisations are hopelessly inefficient. I implore the Minister of State to take this point on board.

We all know people who have disabilities and their families have many challenges. We must ensure that the best services, in the most cost-effective manner, are available to meet their needs. Many communities through local fund-raising and Government help have built facilities within their communities ensuring that people with disabilities can, where possible, work and live among their own communities. The Government must continue to encourage that approach, as it is the best, most inclusive and cost-effective option.

Voluntary organisations, as Deputy Creed outlined, such as St Joseph's Foundation in Charleville and others throughout Cork, provide the best possible services. We must ensure that the service providers manage their operations in a way that provides full transparency and in the most efficient and effective manner. It must be our objective to ensure that the maximum amount of net funds go to the front line. We live in very difficult economic times and there is no doubt that in the past many inefficiencies that are still embedded in the HSE sector were caused by a system that threw money at the problem rather than solving the problem and looking seriously at long-term sustainability. The value for money and policy review of disability services which was published in July 2012 identified fundamental issues that must be addressed. They focus on the way in which HSE-funded disability services are managed and operated.

The changes the Minister wishes to introduce are consistent with his overall approach to health policy. This will be achieved by shifting choice and control from professionals and administrators to where it rightfully belongs, namely, the individual with a disability. To achieve that there must be a co-ordinated approach from many Departments. The Department of Education and Skills already spends 15% of its budget in support of children with special educational needs. The new training agency, SOLAS, must pay special attention to encouraging people with disabilities to participate in its mainstream training options while continuing to offer specially tailored courses for people with disabilities.

The Department of Social Protection plays a necessary part in providing support services. In addition to basic payment supports it provides an extensive range of income and work related supports for people with disabilities. More work must be done with employers to encourage them to participate in these schemes, and the wage subsidy must be significant enough to ensure their participation.

Community employment schemes offer many people with disabilities an opportunity to work and partake in local community activities. Local authorities must be more proactive in providing suitable housing that would allow people with disabilities the dignity of independent living. All these approaches from different providers must be overseen and co-ordinated to produce the most inclusive and efficient results at local level.

Some service providers such as St. Joseph's in Charleville are lean, efficient and deliver services far beyond the amount of funding they receive. Those organisations cannot be subjected to across the board cuts such as those affecting State run facilities.

We must examine also the new approach to the way we deliver multidisciplinary services to special needs children between the ages of five and 18. That greatly worries me. We have a duty to evaluate and ensure that there will not be a negative impact on these children. The value of the relationship between a therapist and an intellectually challenged child or young adult is essential and we must ensure that is not diluted.

I wish to refer briefly to cystic fibrosis and what happened in St. Vincent's Hospital last week and this week which was a perfect example of the intention being good but the delivery not happening on the ground. It is a subject very close to my heart as Members will know I have a daughter with cystic fibrosis. Thirty-four beds were built for isolation for cystic fibrosis patients. Twenty of those beds were dedicated full-time to cystic fibrosis patients and 14 were to be prioritised. I do not understand the reason the special delivery unit in the Health Service Executive when we know that people with cystic fibrosis suffer greatly at this time of the year when infection is at its highest, could not have allocated the beds to be isolated for this time of year.

I thank Deputy Kelleher for bringing forward the motion. I wish to be associated with the statement by Deputy Áine Collins on cystic fibrosis. This has been a problem for a long time yet we do appear to be able to address it to facilitate those who suffer from that disease. Many years ago I saw the problems faced by a next door neighbour of mine who had the disease. At that time we appeared to be on the point of dealing with it but it did not happen, and we are in the same place now in that regard. Something must be done because we cannot have patients going into hospitals unless they are put in isolation units etc. I am not an expert on the disease but I am aware of the suffering of families because of the problems not being addressed. I ask the Minister to outline the position on that in his reply because it must be addressed.

Regarding the national issue, we have had numerous representations from the various organisations on cuts to services. Those organisations are at the coalface in terms of trying to keep the services going but it is not feasible to keep going back to them in respect of cuts because they cannot continue to offer the services if we continue to cut their funding. Deputy Creed spoke about the possibility of some not pulling their weight in that regard but everyone I know is pulling their weight. I refer to KARE, in my constituency. I have spoken to the chief executive officer of KARE, Christy Lynch, on many occasions. I visited Moore Abbey in recent weeks also. The services those people provide on a daily basis are unbelievable. They go above and beyond the call of duty in many instances and work continuously to try to meet the challenges they face. We have groups that are supportive of those associations which try to raise funding day in, day out to maintain the services. We must realise that we cannot put any more pressure upon that system.

I ask the Minister of State to outline the position in regard to thalidomide. From minutes and documentation I have seen I am aware that is an issue on which decisions are awaited but as is the case with cystic fibrosis we cannot continue to wait for decisions to be made because the unfortunate people who suffered that tragedy many years ago are getting old. They are unable to provide for themselves. No one is providing for them because of the need for special facilities in their homes. I visited a house in which the person requires special facilities but there is no one to give that to them. There is no mechanism available to them yet we are waiting on decisions to be made. We must move on these issues and work with the two organisations to try to bring the issue to a conclusion and give direction in that regard. There is little use in waiting on the results of court cases because unfortunately many of these people could die in that period. We must face up to the challenge of working with these people to try to get a positive and a sympathetic solution for them.

The value for money and policy review states that choice and control will be transferred from professionals and administrators to individuals with a disability and their families. That is a dangerous move. I can envisage people with a disability being isolated because when the red tape starts to come in it will be said that they are now in control of their own destiny. That is not a positive move in regard to respecting the rights of those with disabilities to have equality in the way they live their lives. I ask that this aspect of the value for money and policy review be revisited.

I listened to the debate this morning and yesterday and I would be right in saying that in principle all Members elected to this House would support the view that disability services should be adequately funded. There is no dispute among us in that regard.

It is important that every effort possible is made to limit the level of the reduction in the budget for disability services. It is important also that the 3.7% reduction indicated in the report is offset by savings. That would be a progressive move.

I share the view expressed by others that it is a fundamental requirement that we protect front-line services for those with disabilities. That is paramount.

I listened to the contributions this morning and yesterday and it is politically dishonest for some people to claim that it is possible to protect all services in a country which was faced with bankruptcy and is only now in the early stages of stability. It is dishonest to say that no services would be affected, and we should be straight with the people who avail of these services.

Another myth was peddled by some Members of this House. It was aimed at Fianna Fáil. Some of it was correct but some of it was incorrect.

People point out that the whole of society suffered but sections of society did not suffer, such as the wealthy and those who live in mansions. Others were able to avail of a very attractive subsidy to private schools. In a few hours, some of those raising their voices about the vulnerable will have the opportunity to speak up for the vulnerable in terms of revenue. I refer to those living in mansions or who have availed of lucrative private education subsidies. We will then see who wants to speak loudest for those who are vulnerable. As a supporter of the Government, I look forward to a time when we can protect and improve the service to the disabled.

I commend Deputy Billy Kelleher on tabling the motion and support his call for the Government to provide funding and services necessary to honour its commitment to people with disabilities. As Deputy Kelleher said last night, it is about holding the line and the line is in the programme for Government. It is very important.

We propose that disability services be ring-fenced from any cut. It is a good starting point. As a Deputy from the west of Ireland, I met with organisations such as the Brothers of Charity, Western Care Mayo, which looks after Mayo particularly, and Ability West. The Brothers of Charity have been to the fore in helping families affected by the cuts to disability services. There is great benefit to people in the care of the Brothers of Charity. I received a letter from a mother who talked about her son, who is making a constructive contribution to society and will only improve with continued support. She praises what the Brothers of Charity are doing but she also makes the point that, if there is a withdrawal of funding, it could result in her son regressing. In the past, this has led to the intervention of the Garda Síochána, the courts and other State agencies because there is no focus or outlet for him and others in this situation. That mother and many who avail of the services of the Brothers of Charity are concerned at the proposed reduction in budgets.

Ability West is an organisation that has provided services for 50 years to children and adults with intellectual disabilities in the west. It was previously known as the Galway County Association for Mentally Handicapped Children. It told me that this year there was a cutback of €836,454 in its budget. It tried to do everything possible to minimise costs and maximise efficiencies but the CEO of the organisation said in a letter to parents that the organisation has now reached the point where the scope for savings from efficiencies that would not have an impact on services no longer exists.

Other Deputies referred to the question of people leaving school. Ability West responded to 33 people leaving school this year. There were only 14 rehabilitative training places and the remaining 19 people had to be accommodated without any new additional funding being provided to the organisation. In 2012, Ability West responded to several emergencies. The organisation feels another cut in the 2013 budget would be a cut too far and would result in a reduction in essential services, such as respite, residential support, day services and transport.

We are concerned at cutbacks to the budgets for personal assistants and special needs provision. Children have lost special needs assistants and there is a major issue in respect of students leaving school. I understand 700 people came out of school last year. There is great concern about their future. The same issue exists in terms of domiciliary care allowance, where 63% of applications were refused in the first half of the year. Up to half of the applications for children with autism were refused. Autism, in particular, has been highlighted by many parents, one of whom wrote to me about her son with autism and an intellectual disability. In that case, the Brothers of Charity was a one-stop-shop for the family. I hope the Brothers of Charity and other organisations are not forgotten by the Government. People are asking why the Government is taking funding from the Brothers of Charity and such organisations when it should be helping these organisations with their financial situation.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this debate and compliment Deputy Kelleher on tabling the motion at an appropriate time so that Members can speak in favour of citizens who suffer from a disability. The well-worded motion recognises that over 600,000 people in Ireland live with a disability and recognises their deep concern that services they so eagerly need may be cut and further reduced. The motion says it is unfair and unjust to cut the services and that we note the pledges in the programme for Government, which was signed over 18 months ago with full knowledge of the financial constraints of the economy. The programme for Government promises to ensure the quality of life of people with disabilities is enhanced and that the resources allocated reach the people who need them. It also refers to facilitating people with disabilities in achieving a greater level of participation in employment, training and education. We call on the Government to honour its commitments, made a relatively short time ago, in the programme for Government in advance of budget 2013. The choices the Government makes will help to define us as a country and say much about us as a society. It will say a lot about this society if Government backbenchers stand up to the mark and protect the most vulnerable in society. Last week, on Molesworth Street, thousands of people who suffer from disabilities and their family members came out to show their grave anxiety and concern about the potential for cuts to the service.

Last year, this area had a reduction of 3.7%. Of that, 1.7% was to be made in front-line spending and 2% was to be targeted at the administration side. That is not the case and it is disingenuous of the Minister to say the 2% out of 3.7% was administrative. One size does not fit all and while many service providers could achieve greater efficiencies and could be leaner, that is not always the case. After last year's budget, the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, met a deputation from an example of such an organisation in my constituency, St. Christopher's Services.

If there had been a 3.7% reduction, as the Minister intended, the 1.7% reduction in front-line services would have been €135,000 and the 2% cut in administration costs would have been €13,000. This would have meant an overall reduction of €148,000. In fact, the reduction to St. Christopher's last year was €380,000. St. Christopher's, like many other service providers, has an extremely efficient and lean administrative function. One cannot simply say a cut of 2% off everything will achieve a specified target. A 2% reduction in this area would have meant a reduction of €13,000. The deputation from St. Christopher's told the Minister they could have lived with that but they have not been able to live with the reduction of €380,000. Since 1 July, respite care has seen a reduction of 28%. Respite of seven days has been reduced to five nights. Staff are sent home for three additional days of unpaid leave in the year. All community homes serviced by St. Christopher's now close down on every bank holiday and patients are discharged. This is because of the reductions of last year.

Representatives of St. Christopher's say they could have lived with the previous cuts. I acknowledge Fianna Fáil's part in the previous Government that inflicted cuts, but a time must come when we say enough is enough. This sector of society cannot take further cuts. St. Christopher's is a real-life example of a service that has provided invaluable service to the community of Longford-Westmeath for decades.

Severe pressure has been put on people with disabilities who are living independently and away from residential care or community housing. Cuts to home help hours in recent weeks and months are having a huge negative effect. The HSE is playing on people's good nature. If it takes 45 minutes or an hour to get a person out of bed, see to their personal hygiene and do whatever needs to be done, no home help will walk away when the allocated 30 minutes are up. If the allocated time has been reduced from one hour to 30 minutes, a home help will not walk away and leave the person to fend for his or herself. The HSE is playing on the good nature of thousands of home helps. Apart from being morally wrong, it does not make economic sense to cut home help hours. Everyone knows it makes more economic sense to keep people living independently in their homes than to relocate them to community facilities or nursing homes.

Where exactly does the Government stand on its commitment to mental health? Last year, the Government committed €35 million annually for the three years from 2012 to 2014. A number of weeks ago, I raised this issue with the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, during the Topical Issue debate. I asked her about the additional personnel to be employed in community health and I was told they would be employed in December. The additional staff will be employed in December so that the cost will come out of the 2013 and not the 2012 budget. Does the commitment made last year in the House stand today? Will €35 million of the HSE budget be ring-fenced for mental health this year, next year and in 2014?

I raise the issue of carers, although they are not the direct responsibility of the Department of Health. Carers are the only people who work for their social welfare payment. The manner and length of the delays they experience when they apply for the carer's allowance is unacceptable. A carer can wait for up to six or eight months to have an application processed. Many of them are refused the allowance and it can take a further ten months for an appeal hearing. That is not fair to people who are working for the income they receive. No one would be expected to work for eight months in a job before being paid. This is unfair.

Deputy Maloney said, rightly, we will all have an opportunity later today to speak out for the most vulnerable in society. Fianna Fáil produced its alternative budget, A Fairer Way to Recovery, two weeks ago. Our aim is to protect the most vulnerable in society. The Government will receive support from all sides of the House if today's budget protects the disability sector and the most vulnerable in society and is progressive, unlike last year's budget which was one of the most regressive of recent times.

Like previous speakers from my party, I welcome Deputy Kelleher's initiative in this regard. It is pertinent that it be debated on this day when the Government is charged with the responsibility of charting the financial course of the Government for the forthcoming year. As Deputy Troy has said, our party and organisation was adamant, in framing alternative proposals, to ring-fence the two areas of health and disability and education. Those are the two sectors that have been most let down in recent times.

A significant percentage of people with disabilities incur additional costs for heating, clothing and day-to-day living expenses above and beyond those experienced by people without a disability. This has been estimated to be as much as one third of average weekly income. The extra cost of disability can affect a person's ability to participate in life-enhancing opportunities and reduce their standard of living, sometimes below the socially acceptable minimum standard. If people with disability are to be equal, the extra cost generated by their disability should not be borne by them alone but by society at large which should act to level the playing field by covering those extraordinary costs.

To date, disability payments and the secondary benefits associated with them have evolved over time to respond to the specific needs of people with disabilities. These form a wide range of packages and measures to redress the costs of disability as well as poverty and unemployment traps caused by particular disabilities. We in Fianna Fáil are proud of our record over the past ten to 15 years in this regard and we apologise to no one for the advances we made, particularly in the provision of a budget specifically designated for the disability sector. We acknowledge that people with disabilities are worried about being able to live independently.

How the Government sees fit to treat people with disabilities was exemplified in the proposal to cut the personal assistance budget. That would have caused real hardship and, thankfully, the Government was forced to do a U-turn in this regard. Disability is a social justice priority for my party, and we believe the disability strategy should be sustained and implemented.

Fine Gael and the Labour Party made specific pre-election promises on the retention and improvement of services for the disability sector. They made these pledges when the nature and scale of the required fiscal adjustments were already clear. We will do our utmost to ensure the Government parties adhere in some way to those promises, although if what they have been doing in the recent past is anything to go by, we cannot have much hope. It is clear to us that there is a need to bring forward a motion like this one.

The Government parties' deliberations have been taking place at Cabinet over the last week. I listened to Deputy Keaveney this morning on radio saying he could not give an absolute commitment to any budget brought forward by his Government until he saw it in its entirety. I argue that it would have been more beneficial to him and his party colleagues and those in Fine Gael to seek a commitment from the Cabinet that it would ring-fence, as we have done in our proposals, spending on the health and disability sector and education. The Sunday Independent had a verbatim account of discussions at the Labour Party meeting last week. That article quoted the Minister for Education and Skills as looking for heads, as he has done in the past. Based on the apologies he has made in this House since entering office, the first thing he should check every morning is that his own head is still on his shoulders.

The Government in preparing last year's budget, particularly for the Department of Health, had a false budget that had to be corrected to the tune of €400 million here last night. That brought about severe hardship for home helps. Some weeks ago when the Taoiseach was questioned about this, he said no one would be left without home help based upon need, and that Members should submit to him details of specific instances in their constituencies. I have informed the Taoiseach in writing of several cases in that regard and I am awaiting his response.

Can the Taoiseach live up to the commitment he gave, not only in that instance but on the preparation of today's budget? Can he look after the least well off in our society, those who do not have the backing of ICTU and the ITGWU, the INO and the large unions that represent other sectors in society? They are represented by their families, as we saw during their protest last week. They are the ones who have been left to carry the can and they are the ones who deserve the support because they are the only ones getting the message to us to give to the Government.

I thank Deputy Kelleher for tabling this motion. It is a vital motion on one of the most important days of the year, as we face the budget. We want to highlight the issue of disability and ensure no further cuts are inflicted on the sector. Everyone who has spoken has mentioned their care for and concern about people with disabilities. As we talk about the person with the disability, often the language we use forgets those people are individuals. We want to make sure there are no cuts in respite care for them, and that no services are cut.

Every Deputy has been visited by families who have told how respite has been withdrawn, particularly during the summer and during the holiday period we face now. Families of people with disabilities are at breaking point, trying to cope as best they can.

Funding was increased dramatically over recent years, particularly going back to 1997, when the first envelop of money was provided under Brian Cowen when he was Minister for Health. There was a sense we were streamlining a mechanism to ensure funding went straight to the people with disabilities. Services, however, have grown and the services that have grown up are legitimately required; there are no frills here, they are genuinely necessary.

Families are still coming to me because of the cuts in the last budget. Some of the service providers took those cuts on the chin and absorbed them into their systems but they will not be able to do that again. There is a constant line that there are inefficiencies in the system but if the Minister has evidence from the review published this year that there are inefficiencies in some of the systems, he should go after those and pinpoint them so savings can be made. There are service providers, however, who are working on a very tight budget and there is a huge amount of voluntary fund raising done to provide those services on an ongoing basis. Those involved have pared back their activities to provide the most efficient services possible.

We must all accept this is one of the most important sectors of society, made up of the most vulnerable. Those with disabilities and their families are hugely constrained but there have been huge advances in therapies that have had a positive impact on people. We must make sure today and every other day that there are no further cuts because the service will deteriorate as a result.

The cut in respite care and facilities during the summer months and as we face into Christmas is a huge issue. Families that have been applying for carers' allowance have had to wait up to 12 months and that is unacceptable. I would ask the Government to ensure whatever decisions are taken today, and we all understand tough decisions must be taken, this sector, those with disabilities, be they children or adults, are valued as human beings and they have the best possible services available to them.

I commend my party colleague, Deputy Billy Kelleher, for tabling this motion. This Fianna Fail Private Members' motion gives the opportunity to all Members in this House to give a clear commitment to provide the necessary support and services to enable people with disabilities to fulfil their potential.

Over the past few months in particular, many people with disabilities and their families have expressed real concerns about the supports that will be available to them. There is a deep concern among those people that services affecting them may be cut or reduced further. To reduce services to people with disabilities will be totally unfair and unjust. Not alone did Fine Gael and the Labour Party make pre-election promises but they made commitments in the programme for Government that are not being honoured. In this motion we call on the Government to provide the appropriate funding and services necessary to honour its commitments to people with disabilities.

It is very clear that there has been a real impact on the quality of life for so many individuals owing to cuts already implemented and people with disabilities are very concerned about not being able to live independently. The decision by the Government last August to announce a reduction in the personal assistant budget caused untold anxiety to many individuals and its partial reversal was necessary.

Recently on Leaders' Questions, Deputy Martin raised the very important issue of young people with disabilities leaving school and having no guarantee of a placement at the end of the year. We must ensure that young adults with an intellectual disability or autism leaving school, who need further support from the disability services, have ready access to a suitable education or training centre. The only children leaving school who are not guaranteed a further education placement are young people with a disability, which is unacceptable.

Over the years I have had the great privilege of attending the graduation ceremonies at training centres such as Drumlin House in Cootehill, and the value of the programmes and training provided in such centres is clearly evident. Not alone do those young people get very valuable training but in most instances they also get work experience, which often opens up a whole new world for them. The employers enabling such placements deserve our commendation. The value of such training at a very modest cost is clearly evident from the participation of the trainees and that sense of achievement is also shared by their family members. We all know many such young people who continue to pursue further studies or go into full-time gainful employment. Despite the budgetary challenges critical services such as these must be maintained and no child or young adult should be denied the appropriate education and training.

As we know, home help is provided mainly for older members of society but a large number of people of all ages who have a disability depend on home support. Over the past 12 to 15 years home help support has become an integral and important part of our overall health and social services provision. There has been a recent unwelcome trend towards privatising those services. Individuals delivering those services have done an excellent job over the years and in many instances the carers gave extra help and time to the person under their care. When speaking to people availing of home help they will inevitably refer to the bond built up with their carer. That care, commitment and additional unremunerated help cannot be quantified in monetary terms or in terms of reducing attendance in nursing homes and less reliance on the health services.

Home support workers provide an excellent service but in many instances they are being allocated particularly short time periods to care for their patients. The increasing trend to have services provided through care companies will result in their workers spending more time travelling rather than caring. The system of delivering home help through the appointment of an individual, who was generally from the local community, worked well. I am not convinced of the merits of total provision through large-scale providers.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the amendment to the motion and to confirm to the House the extent of the Government's commitment to people with disabilities. It is a pillar of Government policy that people with disabilities should be empowered by policy and programmes to participate meaningfully as citizens in Irish society. The national disability strategy is driven by this basic, but fundamental, objective. The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, outlined in her speech last night the extent to which the strategy is being revitalised, with a new implementation group which she is personally chairing, to draw up implementable actions across a range of Departments. These actions will, when finalised, range across all areas of concern to people with disabilities in their daily lives, not just the extensive supports and services which are provided by the health sector to which so many Members made reference, but also in the areas of access and housing, transport, training and employment opportunities and other areas.

The disability forum, convened under the national disability strategy, was vital in informing the implementation group of the needs and preferences of people with disabilities, their carers and family members. The first meeting of the forum on 19 June this year was attended by more than 300 people and a report on the views expressed will be published shortly, and considered for actions in the implementation plan for the national disability strategy. I am confident that the strategy will be significantly re-energised and re-focused under the guidance of the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch.

The Value for Money and Policy Review of Disability Services, published by the Department of Health in July, has also confirmed what people with disabilities have been telling us for some time. Public consultation processes were carried out by the expert reference group which reviewed disability policy under the review. In response, people with disabilities and their families told us what they thought of the services currently provided under the HSE disability service programme, and what they wanted for the future. Not surprisingly, they told us they did not want more of the same and they told us they want to do normal things in normal places, in other words to participate in society on the same basis as every other citizen. The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, has stated this on many occasions. It is clear that our services, as currently configured, are not yet fully geared to meet the everyday needs of people with disabilities themselves as articulated by them. As a first step, my Department and the Health Service Executive will be working closely to ensure that the value for money review is implemented, with these aims in mind.

I commend the major commitment of the many people in the Health Service Executive, and in the HSE-funded agencies, who are delivering services to people with disabilities every day and are doing so in a very challenging financial environment. However, I know they also share the Government's view that we need to change our approach to one that is geared towards the needs of people with disabilities in the first instance. This is not always the case at present and the value for money review points out that more efficient and effective ways can be found to deliver services which will be more accountable and more directly relevant, and which can make better use of the available resources as mentioned by many Members during the course of this debate. In particular, the individualised model of supports recommended in the review will, as it is developed further in the coming years, contribute to the greater participation of people with disabilities in the social, economic and cultural lives of their communities, and provide them with access to a range of personal social supports and services to enhance their quality of life and well-being.

I again point to the many areas across Government where services are provided to people with disabilities, not just in the health sector but also through extensive education and training supports. New developments in the area of housing and employment activation show that the Government is pushing out the boundaries even further to enable people to participate more fully in society. The funding provided to programmes outside of the health budget, in addition to the annual €1.4 billion investment by the HSE, enables people with disabilities to avail of an extensive range of financial supports and services. The challenge for all of us will be to ensure that this funding is used to better effect in the future and that it is directed to the needs of the individual in the first instance.

I thank Deputy Kelleher for affording us the opportunity over the past two days to discuss this important issue. Disability is not just on budget day, but it is all year round. It is a topic that we should discuss on a more regular basis, particularly in order to pursue some of the initiatives the Minister of State just mentioned.

Many of my colleagues have spoken about cuts to services and I also have similar stories. I wish to focus in particular on the delays in the domiciliary care allowance, the hurdles people need to overcome in applying for that allowance, the 63% refusal rate in the first six months of this year and the fact that people who are in very distressing situations with their children are being forced to provide information which in many cases is already available to those making the decisions. There seems to be no recognition that of all the social welfare allowances this is one provided to people in a very difficult situation in dealing with their children. We have spoken to the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, on numerous occasions but our requests seem to be falling on deaf ears. Perhaps the Minister of State might bring to her attention that new arrangements need to be put in place for dealing with domiciliary care in order to speed up the decision time, considering the very difficult home situations of those applying for it.

The very reason the allowance was introduced in the first place should also be considered in the way decisions are dealt with.

I will raise a number of local issues. I have the privilege of coming from County Mayo which has been served by the Western Care Association for over 40 years. This is a voluntary organisation established by parents in Castlebar that now has a county-wide remit to provide education and enterprise services. It does an excellent job alongside the HSE but has suffered significant cuts in recent years. It managed to maintain very strong service provision and an excellent range of enterprise supports until this year. This was the first year when it was not in a position to give training opportunities to those coming through the education process by means of its excellent education centre because the places and funding were not there.

We agree with the Minister of State when he talks about the wish of families that disabled people be treated equally, but when they are not given the opportunities to proceed from second level to third level education, the wheels come off that ambition. In respect of funding, let us start ring-fencing training places that may prepare people for work and funding for organisations like the Irish Association of Supported Employment which provide enterprise, job shadowing and other work initiatives for people with disabilities. If they have that training, many of them will be able to play their full part. Some cannot but those who can will be able to play a full and independent part in society. It is all very well to talk about independent living and dealing with the housing and home care requirement but a job requirement is part of the process and seems to be lost.

The Minister of State referred to a cross-Government approach and different Departments being involved. The difficulty is that this is still happening on a silo-by-silo basis. There is very little co-ordination in this approach. The housing policies of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government do not necessarily relate to policies of the Department of Education and Science, while the latter Department's policies on ABA and autism education are often not what the Department of Health think they should be. We need somebody to bring all of Government together to have one approach that assists people to live independently where they can and gives support to those who cannot. We need a cross-Government approach to fast track this instead of forcing people to jump through so many hoops to get basic requirements and entitlements.

I do not doubt the commitment of the Minister of State nor that of the Minister of State with responsibility for disability, equality and mental health. The difficulty in the Department is at the top - a difficulty pointed out by the Minister for Education and Science and by many of the Minister of State's colleagues. The commitment of both Ministers of State is getting lost and both of them, especially the Minister of State with responsibility for this area, need to stand up and be very strong for the rights of those they serve in their areas of responsibility.

The Department of Social Protection last year reduced the additional weekly payment that people on disability benefit received for participating in the community employment scheme. This scheme allows them to play a part in the community and gain skills that it is hoped will allow them to move into employment. The additional payment is just €20 per week on top of the disability benefit compared with JobBridge which pays around an additional €50 per week. Why can we not bring it up to the JobBridge level and treat them equally as if they were in JobBridge? There are extra expenses and difficulties involved for those with disabilities. That is a very solid and practical initiative the Government can undertake at minimal expense to send a signal that we are serious about giving an independent future to people who are looking for it. Enterprise Ireland recently launched a range of schemes to encourage different sectors to start up businesses and move into different sectors. An initiative targeting women in business is one example. We should look at an offering something similar to disabled people who want to set up their own businesses. Many organisations have excellent enterprises. The Western Care Association runs Abbey Enterprises which provides services to local multinationals. Many other disabled people have a vision of setting up a business, have the skills to do so and could do so with financial and practical support from Enterprise Ireland or the new local enterprise offices. This would also facilitate independent living.

On a non-budget basis, the Government introduced the heads of the mental capacity Bill to the Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. The committee considered the heads of the Bill and its first recommendation, which was agreed on an all-party basis, was that it should be called the capacity Bill. The committee dealt with the heads of the Bill last April and I have not seen it in the House since. That Bill would bring legislation in the area of disability into the 21st century, and bringing it before the House early next year should be a priority. That would spark the debate about whether we should opt for fully rights-based legislation and the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. People do not fully understand that. If we can use the mental capacity Bill to kick off that discussion, it will do some service not just to the country but to ourselves, as legislators. I hope we would get the commitment to introduce the Bill early in the next session.

The difficulty for the Government does not lie in manifesto commitments. It made these commitments in full knowledge of the difficulties this country faced. The difficulty lies in the commitments it made in the programme for Government, which were made with full briefing from the Central Bank and the European Central Bank. The Government made various commitments in this area in the programme for Government on which it has attempted to row back this year. It forced people to sleep on the streets to prevent their personal assistant service being cut. Non-budget issues such a the mental capacity Bill are being long-fingered. We need a sense of urgency within the Government on the disability issue. If it does that, it has the capacity to deliver much in a relatively short period. The Government's approach could encompass all of Government instead of the disparity and silo-by-silo basis it uses. If it could do that, it would begin to make a difference.

I welcome the contributions from everybody in the House regarding the motion I placed before the Dáil. I have only five minutes in which to sum up and there is no point in thinking that if I make a very fine and elegant speech, I will convince Members opposite to come over to our side and support our motion. I will dwell on a few important issues that have been emphasised by all sides of the House.

I am fully aware of the constraints under which the Government is working. I understand the pressures it is under in terms of budgets, but the key issue with regard to funding for people with intellectual and physical disabilities is the arbitrary value for money review that has been carried out. This root and branch review of services and supports for people in either mainstream education, specialist schools or independent living is too arbitrary. While the Government is trying to extract as many efficiencies as possible, which is the obvious and correct thing to do, those who are most efficient are being penalised to the detriment of the service providers. That is clearly what is happening.

The point I am making in a non-partisan and non-political way is that the Government needs to look at the individual service providers providing care in the community, in specialist schools or for independent living. Those providers who have reached the efficiency levels the Government assumes are acceptable should no longer be penalised and should be allowed to get on with what they are doing, namely, providing care and facilities for people who need and want them. We should focus on this issue over the next few minutes. Everybody has consistently pointed out that there are problems with the Department of Social Protection assessing the domiciliary care allowance, carer's allowance and other social welfare payments. The problem is that the rhetoric does not fit with what is happening on the ground. It is not a criticism of the Minister of State or anybody else but a criticism of the system, which we must address.

The same issue arose with home helps. We were told that everybody would be independently assessed and that there would be no cuts in services. Despite this, there was not a Deputy in the House who did not find people who had been badly treated in terms of the system withdrawing supports. This is beginning to happen in the area of disability. The Government has carried out the value for money review, has the figures in the Departments and knows the service providers who are carrying out a very efficient system and delivering an excellent service. They are all over the country. I agree that some could do more but there are many who can do no more because they are not being given the resources.

These service providers have wonderful facilities and in some cases they are almost family to the users, particularly those with disabilities whose parents are very elderly. They are moving on. Individuals see these service providers as their home and family. This arbitrary cut is forcing the service providers to make very difficult decisions. A key issue is that they are being obligated to absorb the incremental increases agreed under the Croke Park agreement. A very efficient organisation which has cut itself to the bone is being asked to fund increments from its own savings. There is only one place this will come from, and that is the service itself. It will come from diminishing the quality of life for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

I do not expect the Minister to run in the door to announce extra funding will be provided, but in the name of God will the Government do something about removing the arbitrary assessment and examine the individual organisations doing a wonderful job day in day out throughout the country? If an organisation is inefficient then deal with it, but do not make everybody pay.

To quote Samuel Johnson, "Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding", and to paraphrase him, I have found the Government an argument and I am providing it with a solution. I urge the Minister of State to come up with a mechanism to address all of these issues. It would certainly satisfy the service providers and, more importantly, the people who need and use the services on a daily basis. I commend the motion and I urge the Minister of State to take on board this suggestion alone.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 87; Níl, 43.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nulty, Patrick.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 86; Níl, 41.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Nulty, Patrick.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Joe Carey; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
Question declared carried.