I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House this evening to take this matter in person. I have no doubt she is aware of the circumstances in which we find ourselves once again. It is now the end of June but those who will be leaving school with significant disabilities do not yet know where they will get a service in the autumn. I raised this issue with the Minister before and I have raised it in various forums over the years, both in and out of government. When the Minister for Finance announced the package of €4 million in the budget, I was hoping this issue would not arise again. I recognise that there are challenges in the system but contend that, notwithstanding any reasons given, it is totally unsatisfactory and unfair that the most vulnerable are once again left uncertain as to where and what services will be available next autumn. In her reply, I hope the Minister of State will confirm that the issue will be dealt with this year. I understand the reality is that the sum of €4 million is totally inadequate.
I was given some figures for HSE west that implied that the share of money in Galway will be €200,000, despite the fact that €800,000 is required. There are seven school leavers this year who need one-to-one or two-to-one services. It is important that we do not square the circle by taking services away or diminishing services for other service users by spreading the cake more thinly and giving little slices to everybody while not giving anybody a comprehensive service. This is a considerable issue.
Can anybody imagine a parent at the end of June and, more important, the service user not knowing what will happen next September? Some of the people are able to advocate for themselves while others are not but the notion of them getting up without any service or support, with nowhere to go and no opportunity to develop and having to sit at home every day while their parents and other family members have no support is beyond comprehension. It is important that we discuss the provision of full services, which must include therapy, development and respite care.
This issue does not involve significant numbers. The problem is when the issue is addressed one year, a new group of school leavers come along the following year and have to campaign. That reduces the impact of how horrendous is the situation. It is important that we do not only resolve the issue now but that we also resolve to ensure people know early in the year what service is available to them and ensure transition plans are not put in place to help people and service users to adjust as they move from school to disability services over time. All of us need time in life to adjust but it is important to recognise that the people we are discussing have more need for time to adjust and acclimatise and that is also a major issue.
I hope the Minister of State has good news that the issue will be resolved over the next week. However, can she resolve to put this issue before a committee in the autumn in order that it can be thrashed out before Christmas? A sum of €55 million is being spent this year. Can we agree that, no matter how much money is available, the issue of disability services will be given priority?