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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 25 Jun 2015

Vol. 884 No. 2

Topical Issue Debate

Tax Code

I thank the Minister of State for taking this debate. Since 2009, the applicable rate of taxation on inheritance has increased from 20% to 33%, while the threshold above which this rate has applied has dropped from €542,544 to €225,000. Although reductions in the threshold were understandable in the climate of falling asset prices and falling property prices which followed the financial crash, the situation is now radically different. The threshold above which bereaved children are forced to pay tax on their inheritance is at its lowest level in Ireland since 1995. Many family homes, particularly in Dublin, have risen substantially in value over recent years. Irish property prices are rising at 15 times the average European rate. A consequence of these rises is that a family now faces the prospect of liquidating the family home on the death of an elderly parent to meet the inheritance tax liability owed to the Revenue Commissioners. Had Fianna Fáil not abolished the previous practice of index-linking the inheritance tax threshold to inflation, the effect of rising property prices might have been mitigated to some extent.

To put the Irish situation in context, a recent study undertaken by the Tax Foundation in the US found that Ireland had the seventh highest rate of inheritance tax in the OECD. The global average is estimated at just 7.7%, in contrast with our 33%, while many countries, including developed, modern, Western economies such as New Zealand and Australia, have no inheritance tax whatsoever. It is important to dispel the notion pedalled by the Government that inheritance tax affects only the super-wealthy. It is untrue. A threshold as low as €225,000 means the majority of properties in the greater Dublin region face a significant inheritance tax liability upon the gift of that property by a deceased family member. Since 2010, the number of cases in which inheritance tax is applied has increased by over one third.

Inheritance tax penalises those who have prudently saved their already-taxed income over their working lifetimes. It is a double taxation. It is worth bearing in mind the following statement by Deputy Alan Shatter in 2005:

Inheritance tax achieves no beneficial social objective. Essentially, it is a mechanism to facilitate the State to rob the graves of the dead and cruelly deprive bereaved relations of assets to which they are entitled.

While I acknowledge that the fiscal situation in which the State finds itself necessitates some form of taxation on large inheritances, our punitive regime serves to widen further the growing divide between urban and rural taxpayers. Both the inheritance tax and the deeply unfair property tax are driven primarily by the value of residential property, which is growing much more quickly in cities than in rural Ireland. The Government has done nothing to address the unfair tax bill faced by middle-income families in Ireland's cities. To make matters worse, the people who will suffer most from the harshness of our inheritance tax are a generation of people who have already suffered through the most austere and substantial economic cutbacks brought about by the collapse of the Irish economy.

The Opposition parties have abjectly failed to recognise or understand the drastic scale of the inheritance tax issue. Fianna Fáil has taken no meaningful stance on inheritance tax and refused to support my proposed amendment to the Finance Bill last autumn. Sinn Féin’s proposal to increase the rate of inheritance tax from 33% to an extraordinary 40% is further evidence of its ideological agenda to disincentivise enterprise and work and punish those who want to contribute to Ireland's economic prosperity. My party, Renua, is the only party that has consistently fought to alleviate the inheritance tax burden for working families.

I thank the Deputy for raising the matter. I apologise that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, cannot be here, as he is still in Brussels. However, I am very pleased to be here. I do not believe capital acquisitions tax, CAT, is a tax only on the super-wealthy. It has an impact on many normal families in terms of the inheritance of family homes. CAT applies to the beneficiary of a gift or inheritance rather than to the person making the gift or inheritance. While the rate of CAT is 33%, each person has a number of lifetime thresholds for gifts and inheritances which they can receive tax-free. These are based on the relationship with the person who has made the gift or bequest. The group A threshold of €225,000 applies primarily in cases in which an asset passes from a parent to a child. The group B threshold of €30,150 applies primarily to transfers between other close relatives. The group C threshold of €15,075 applies between more distant relations and people who are not related.

The 33% rate of CAT applies to assets received by a person above the relevant threshold. Gifts and inheritances between spouses and civil partners are exempt from CAT. Over recent years, the CAT thresholds have been reduced a number of times, while the rate has been increased. These changes were necessary in order to maintain the yield from capital taxes in a period of falling asset prices so that such taxes would continue to make a contribution to our efforts to consolidate the public finances. I welcome the fact that the Deputy has recognised this point. Moreover, the view of the OECD, supported by our own economic research, is that taxes on immovable property and certain other capital are less harmful and distortionary to economic growth than taxes on work or consumption.

As the economic recovery continues to take hold, the Minister for Finance began, in this year's budget, to focus available resources on reducing the burden of taxation on earned income and take-home pay where high taxes impact on competitiveness, economic growth and job creation. The Minister has indicated that this will continue to be his main focus. That said, the Minister recognises that recent growth in property values has implications for the liabilities that can arise from CAT. It is for this reason that he has already indicated to the House that he is reviewing the various aspects of this tax in the context of his preparations for the 2016 budget and the subsequent Finance Bill. While the Minister is not in a position to say at this point what specific changes he may or may not propose, he will be glad to take note of the views of the Deputy on this issue in the context of his review of the tax.

I have some comments to make on issues that have been raised in this area. When considering the inheritance of a family home, for example, it is worth noting the existence of the CAT dwelling house exemption, which allows for a property to be inherited tax free when the inheritor is already living in the home. While certain restrictions apply to ensure proper use, this exemption is designed to prevent cases of hardship or displacement for inheritors who are home sharers. In cases where the dwelling house exemption applies, the tax-free thresholds are unaffected and continue to apply separately and are available to an individual to cover the value of other gifts or inheritances which he or she may benefit from over his or her lifetime. The tax-free thresholds were previously indexed to inflation through the consumer price index. This link was ended following the financial crash, given that inflation was positive while property values were declining considerably. Fixed property makes up a large proportion of gifts and inheritances, especially inheritances.

The Minister will examine the question of whether it might be appropriate to index the thresholds in the future. A number of issues must be considered, including, for example, the availability of an appropriate index and the current functioning of the property market generally. Concerns have been expressed about the hardship that may be caused by the scale of CAT liabilities in certain circumstances. When a person who receives a gift or inheritance is not in a position to pay the CAT charge arising in one go, it may be possible, in certain circumstances, to arrange to pay the tax by instalments.

I will run out of time. In general, we take the Deputy's point. The Minister is considering the tax in the context of the forthcoming budget and will take the Deputy's views on board.

I thank the Minister of State. I appreciate that he ran out of time, as did I. The threshold must be substantially raised in order to end discrimination against urban dwellers, particularly Dublin dwellers. The rate of 33% is astronomically high. Although the average across the OECD is 7.7%, our Government, probably for ideological reasons, believes a 33% rate is acceptable. It is not acceptable. To pit income tax rates against inheritance tax rates is comparing apples and oranges.

They serve entirely different functions. To suggest the existence of the tax free allowance for an individual who happens to live in the family home and inherits it is unfair. A large number of elderly people live in my area. People from my area and from around the country have contacted me about this issue and they have almost wondered should they move their sons or daughters into their family home in order to avoid the tax liability. That is a dreadful pressure to put on families. It is not right.

The reality is that a huge number of families are living in negative equity. They may own apartments and may have moved to rental properties because they cannot raise their families in the apartments they bought during the Celtic tiger era. They are trapped in homes they are renting and cannot afford to move out of them. One of the solutions for many families is to inherit the family home but now they are subjected to this enormous tax liability, which makes it impossible for many of those young families, who have already been drastically hit by the downturn, to move into or to take over the family home on the death of a loved one. That is grotesquely unfair for families who are working hard, for deceased parents who wanted to pass on their family home to their children, and for those children, many of whom are trapped in negative equity and are being punished further by the Government with the imposition of this tax rate.

Specifically, the rate needs to be reduced at least back down to the 20%. Clearly, the thresholds urgently need to be raised. There urgently needs to be a relinking with the consumer price index. I am glad the Minister is considering that but he needs to go much further than that. The proposal in regard to instalment payments to Revenue is preposterous. The idea that people will have a noose around their necks because they have inherited their family home is not conscionable. I urge the Minister of State not to go down that road. This is about reducing the liability, not hanging it as a noose around families' necks long into the future. They already have enough debt, stress and challenges in life without hanging that further noose around their necks. I urge the Minister of State to ensure the Minister, Deputy Noonan, does not go down that road.

I thank Deputy Creighton for raising this matter. I want to assure her there is nothing ideological about this from the Government's perspective, as she has suggested. The Government has to make choices in regard to how it brings in income to run the State and provide vital services. I was not suggesting that income tax and capital acquisitions tax were the same. I was merely suggesting that when the Government has to form budgets, it has to make choices. The Minister has placed the emphasis in regard to tax reductions on work and on reducing tax on work. That makes a good deal of sense for a range of reasons, including competitiveness. However, the Minister has recognised, as I stated in my reply, that the recent growth in property values, particularly in Dublin and the greater Dublin area, as the Deputy said, has implications for liabilities that can arise for families. The Deputy said she thought some people in this Government think this is a tax that only impacts on the wealthy or the super wealthy. I can assure her that is not the case. That is certainly not the reality. This is a tax that impacts on many normal families.

With respect to the issue of the dweller, I was merely trying to reassure people because this issue has been the subject of significant debate and media attention. I meet many people in my constituency office who may be caring for a person with a disability and their child may be living at home and I have reassured them if the person is living in the home they are not liable for the tax.

The Minister is examining this tax. He will review it in advance of budget 2016. He has asked me to assure the Deputy that he will take her views on board in the context of this debate, and he will make his announcement and decision in the context of the budget.

Child and Family Agency

I welcome the opportunity to raise this issue and I thank the Minister for coming into the House to deal with it.

As he will know, on Monday, the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, published its annual report on the regulatory activity of children's services for 2014. That report covers statutory children's residential centres, statutory foster care services, child protection and welfare services, designated centres for children with disabilities and the country's detention schools. While I must acknowledge that the report highlights findings of excellent child-centred practice, the HIQA inspection raises significant ongoing concerns about the performance and operation of Tusla. The HIQA review highlights that, "Significant variation in the performance of the Child and Family Agency services have been found in the Health Information and Quality Authority analysis of its regulation and oversight of children's services during 2014." As the Minister and I know, Tusla has a statutory responsibility to promote the welfare of children and protect those deemed to be at risk of harm. We have a duty of obligation to ensure that happens. We have seen coverage on the news of the historical abuse inquiry taking place in the North into the activities of the most notorious sexual predator that probably ever walked the face of this earth, or that we have had in this country, and how a blind eye was turned to his activities and how people in positions did not do their job. We have a responsibility in this area and the Government has a responsibility to ensure that the agency that is tasked with the responsibility to protect our children gets the necessary supports and resources.

There are serious concerns about inconsistencies in the safety and quality of children's services nationally. The management systems are not adequate in providing assurance on consistent, safe, good quality services, robust quality assurance systems, effective information systems and effective risk management processes. In some areas, children waited for significant periods of time before the level of risk to which they were exposed was assessed or until their cases were allocated to a social worker. As result of the lack of social workers, medium and lower priority cases are being put on the long finger and those children have to wait very lengthy periods to be allocated a social worker.

This report comes on the back of previous reports. A HIQA report published earlier this year into the social services in Cork showed that more than 230 children assessed as being at high risk of harm did not have an allocated social worker. HIQA states that, "children ...deemed to have a high level of need ...[were placed at risk by the failure to allocate social workers to them or to give them] timely access to child protection and welfare interventions". We also know what happened in Laois and Offaly but I acknowledge that when it came to our attention and the Minister's attention quick action was taken.

This is a new agency. There should be no issue with its governance or management structure. The main issue in question is that it is not adequately resourced.

The Government and the Minister cannot shirk their responsibility for the stark shortcomings in the child protection and welfare services across the country. Internal documents show the agency's board was told that a budget of less than €650 million in 2015 would lead to serious reductions in several areas. There is a clear shortfall there. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to how he will deal with this to ensure that no child, regardless or their geographical location, will be left vulnerable to sexual predators, neglect and abuse in future.

I thank Deputy Troy for his question in regard to Tusla's child protection and welfare services and I welcome the opportunity to address the issues raised. At the outset, I welcome and support the work of the Health Information and Quality Authority in providing independent evidence on service delivery and challenges. It is essential that there is strong independent oversight of the quality and safety of our children's services.

On Monday last, the authority published its annual overview of the 2014 inspections of children's services in the area of child welfare and protection, children detention schools and HSE residential centres for children with disabilities. Services under the remit of my Department include child welfare and protection services, fostering services, children residential and special care centres and children detention schools.

Children's disability services are provided or funded by the HSE, under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Health. HIQA inspects all these services on a regular basis and the inspection reports are published on the HIQA website.

On foot of each inspection report, an action plan is drawn up by the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, and agreed by HIQA.

The annual overview reiterates that the inspectors found evidence of good practice and service delivery. The overview highlighted that improvements have been made, and that further reforms are under way. As outlined in the individual reports, the overview refers to staffing pressures being experienced by those delivering these services. It also makes the point that this is only part of the picture of where improvements can be made. HIQA concludes that a unified national approach to key policies, procedures and training is required in order to achieve improved management and supervision across this suite of services.

As part of its reform programme, Tusla has engaged in a wide-ranging quality assurance programme across all 17 of its administrative areas. Improvements brought about by standardised business practices and better monitoring are beginning to take effect. These improvements are reflected in the inspection reports and I expect that they will feature more and more over time. While certain variances are to be expected between services, given the allocation and usage of resources and staff as well as population differences, Tusla is working hard at national, regional, and area level to implement and bed in a new framework of policies and standards.

In respect of staffing issues, my Department is already engaging with Tusla on this matter, and is expecting a submission on staffing and other resource issues as part of the annual Estimates cycle.

As the Deputy will be aware, issues have arisen in the midlands service area, particularly in Laois-Offaly, which were brought to my attention by Tusla. Over the last two months, Tusla has been actively addressing these issues to bring the services in the midlands in line with the national standards for protection and welfare of children. These services will also be subject to a regulatory inspection by HIQA in the coming months.

HIQA has provided a valuable critique of the services provided by Tusla, but it is important to recognise that the overview report also highlights findings of excellent child-centred practice. HIQA noted that children had ready access to information about their rights, that they participated in care planning meetings, and that they were supported in accessing records and making complaints where necessary. There is evidence that children are being listened to and helped and that they are receiving child-centred practices.

HIQA noted the progress Tusla has made, highlighting the bedding down of standardised processes and the introduction of some much-needed policies. HIQA also welcomed the agency's move to a new service model to co-ordinate provision of welfare services. The improvements identified by HIQA are in close alignment with those in Tusla's reform programme. Accordingly, this overview report strongly supports the reform programme which my Department and Tusla are driving forward. HIQA's overview report thus provides a useful benchmark of the ongoing progress and impact of this extensive reform process.

At the outset of this discussion, I acknowledged that there were some very positive findings in the report. However, we cannot become complacent. The HIQA analysis also found significant variations in the performance of Child and Family Agency services. There are serious concerns about inconsistency in the safety and quality of children's services nationally, which is the key issue.

Internal documents show that the agency's board was told that a budget of less than €650 million in 2015 would lead to serious reductions in several areas. There is clearly a shortfall in the level of resources allocated to Tusla. There are further problems with oversight, management practices at Tusla, the whole area of how information is tracked and the presence of an adequate IT system. That was clearly demonstrated by the Laois-Offaly issue.

Since Tusla has taken over the child and family services, its oversight regime is actually less transparent than that of the HSE. For example, the quarterly report on the performance of social worker services, Measuring the Pressure, is no longer publicly available without a freedom of information request. There is no reason for this complete lack of transparency.

Planning and needs assessment is also inadequate. I have continuously highlighted the need for additional social workers and the need to address the manner in which they are hired. If someone who is going on maternity leave gives five months' notice when she is three months pregnant, I am told it is still the norm that the maternity leave cover position cannot even be advertised until the woman goes out on leave.

Can the Minister confirm that there are sufficient social workers throughout the State and that there is now a proper IT system in place? The Minister talks about the commencement of a national review of the governance system. That is unbelievable in the case of a new agency which is only in operation for 12 months. There should be no review as the governance system should have been fit for purpose from day one.

As the Deputy has pointed out, it is a new agency and we have to give it time to come to terms with all the challenges it has inherited. I agree with the Deputy that there is no question of anybody being allowed become complacent, as there are serious challenges ahead that must be overcome. The challenge for the agency is to bring uniformity across the system, in governance, reporting and care. There are many excellent people working in the system but in order that the agency can work efficiently and plan appropriately, we need access to full information. That situation is being addressed.

Tusla got a considerable increase in its budget this year. We would all like to give it more money and, with the Estimates process coming up, we will fight our corner. We gave the agency all the money we could, even giving up our national lottery fund to ensure we could maximise its funding, because it has to deliver the services on the ground.

We must, without being overly political, acknowledge that we have come out of the worst recession the country has ever endured. We know why that happened. We are actively recruiting more social workers and developing IT, and the governance issues are being addressed. HIQA's report is reassuring in so far as it points to the fact that actions have been taken and plans agreed with HIQA to address the areas identified as deficient.

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue and take the opportunity to thank all who work in our service for the great work they do. We will support them in their work and in making their job easier to do by removing the current barriers.

Magdalen Laundries

I want to express my appreciation that this matter was accepted for Topical Issues. I have debated the subject a number of times in the House, with the Taoiseach during Leaders' Questions and several times with the Minister for Justice and Equality. Each time, it was in the hope it would be the last time and that all the issues would be resolved and systems put in place for the survivors.

When the Taoiseach made the apology in this House, he also expressed his intention, as he said, to establish a process "by which we can determine how best to help and support the women in their remaining years." That was on 19 February 2013. Over two years later some of the ladies are still waiting on that help and support. While I acknowledge that progress has been made in a number of areas, today's debate is about the outstanding health and medical concerns, especially for those ladies who are living outside Ireland.

I have a couple of specific questions which may be answered in the course of the Minister of State's reply. One concerns medical cards under the ex gratia scheme. There are concerns that the services provided may be means tested. Some of the Magdalen ladies have regular medical cards and the question is, will they use those cards in addition to the new card, or will the scheme operate as one single medical card? In the event that both cards are being used, will those with the regular medical card be at a greater advantage than those who have just the one, new card?

For those living abroad, how exactly will the scheme operate? What are the practical arrangements for the health needs of those ladies? We know there are a number living in Britain and America but the question is whether the Department has information on the number of ladies who are living in other parts of the world.

When I was discussing this on one occasion with the Minister for Justice and Equality, I made the point that there is a need for a guide to services for the survivors, including a comprehensive guide to the health services which are accessible that is written in language which is easy to understand for those ladies who will have the cards. The Minister was very receptive of that idea so I would like to know where that guide is. Services such as reflexology and acupuncture were also discussed during the debate and there were concerns these would not be covered by the health services. I am sure many of us in the House have used both reflexology and acupuncture at times as alternative health therapies.

I am in regular contact with the unit in the Department that is going through the issues on the justice side, and I know there have been delays from the Department of Health. The time issue is vital. Some of the ladies have passed away, some are ill and many are in very advanced years. Regardless of the time they spent in the laundries, I think anyone who ever spent any time in a laundry has been deeply affected. They have been waiting a long time for that abuse and suffering to be addressed.

Some ten days ago an article in The Irish Times reported the Minister for Justice and Equality announced that the medical card and the other supports, such as home help and counselling, would start from 1 July, when the redress Act comes into force. However, that is for those who remain resident in Ireland. The article states the women can receive all the medical services recommended by Mr. Justice Quirke, which is positive. However, for those women living abroad, who were the subject of my specific question today, access to equivalent medical services will be dealt with on an administrative basis by the HSE due to the "wide variation of different health systems". I would like to know exactly what that means.

I ask that we would start with Britain and America because we know there are many women living in both of those jurisdictions. We should start with those ladies of the most advanced years who have medical issues.

I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Health. I thank Deputy O'Sullivan for her interest in this issue.

The Deputy will be aware the Government decided that a non-adversarial scheme for women who had worked in Magdalen laundries or similar institutions should be introduced and it asked Mr. Justice Quirke to make recommendations on an appropriate scheme. The Government accepted all the recommendations of the Quirke report and established an ex gratia restorative justice scheme. In that context, the Government set up a range of payments and supports for the women who worked in these institutions. Payments of up to €100,000 are made to these women, depending on their length of stay in the laundries. In addition, the Department of Social Protection is making pension-type payments to these women. I understand the Department of Justice and Equality has processed 90% of applications received and that 541 applicants have received lump sum payments at a cost of just under €20 million to date.

Mr. Justice Quirke also recommended that legislation be introduced regarding the provision of health services to Magdalen women. To that end, the Minister for Justice and Equality brought the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Act 2015 through the Oireachtas. The Act sets out the primary and community health services that will be made available in Ireland, free of charge, from 1 July 2015. Those services are as follows: GP services; prescribed drugs, medicines, aids and appliances; dental, ophthalmic and aural services; home nursing; home support; chiropody; physiotherapy; and counselling services.

A woman qualifies for these services where the Minister for Justice and Equality has determined that she is eligible under the restorative justice scheme and the woman has accepted a formal offer made to her under that scheme. The HSE will contact the qualifying women directly in order to issue them with an "RWRCI card". The HSE will also provide information to the women about the health services. In addition, the Government decided that the ex gratia payments received from the Minister for Justice and Equality will not be included by the HSE in the assessment of means for a medical card or for the fair deal scheme.

As I stated, the primary and community health services are available only in Ireland to RWRCI cardholders. Women who currently reside outside of Ireland can access the health services when they visit Ireland. However, the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Act does not provide them with health services outside of Ireland. While the Quirke report did not make a recommendation that health services should be provided to women residing overseas, the Government has decided that some practical administrative arrangements should be put in place to support women residing overseas for the same services. While the Department of Health and the HSE have been focused on implementing the Act for the majority of women living in Ireland, they are also exploring the practical arrangements to be put in place for the overseas women. This is an important but complex matter, and it is taking longer than anticipated. I am sure that the Deputy recognises that all health systems around the world vary in organisation and that each system is practically unique and equally complex. When practical arrangements are in place, the HSE will contact those participants living abroad in this regard, which I hope will be as soon as possible.

When this Topical Issue was selected, I was not aware the Minister was not taking it. I mean absolutely no disrespect to the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, who I know has a personal interest in this. None the less, if I had realised this, I would have waited until the Minister was available.

There are outstanding issues. For many of the ladies, the remit of the McAleese report was too narrow and there is a lot of dissatisfaction with that. There are outstanding issues regarding An Grianán and the memorial, on which there is a wide diversity of views. I met somebody recently who had been in an industrial school rather than a Magdalen laundry, and his view was there should be a day of remembrance for everybody who suffered abuse in this way.

From the Minister of State's reply, there will be outstanding issues for those ladies who live outside the country. I will put this in the context of one person in particular who I met, because she is like so many of the other ladies. She lives in the United States and came to Ireland some 18 months ago. When she was in Dublin, she came to Leinster House and I had lunch with her. She is an amazing woman, with a great character, great strength and resilience - a feisty lady. Her story was one of horror, hurt and disappointment. She now has health needs, so much so that she cannot come to Ireland this year.

I apply her case to the answer I have received and I find that she can either travel here to address whatever health needs she has, I presume at her own expense or, otherwise, she is just going to waste away. As I said, she is over 80 and has health needs. There is nothing for her in this reply, which talks of "exploring the practical arrangements to be put in place", and "When practical arrangements are in place, the HSE will contact those participants living abroad". That is not a practical solution to her situation. I know she has been watching the post to see whether she will be told of these administrative arrangements. From this reply, I can only express the frustration, disappointment and despair she is going to feel at this. We know of certain women in America and Britain, including the woman I have just mentioned. She should be a priority.

I know the Deputy has acknowledged that progress has been made in this area. However, I understand her frustrations about the particular woman whose case she raised. To be helpful, it might be wise for the Deputy to contact the Minister for Health directly about this woman to see if she could be made a priority. I think the Minister would be quite willing to work with the Deputy on that.

I have a great personal interest in this issue and the debate on it in this House stands out in my memory as an example of where the Government and the Opposition worked together, in this case to find a solution for the women who had suffered so much in the Magdalen laundries. I advise the Deputy to take up the case to which she referred with the Minister.

Disability Services Funding

St. Michael's House is an outstanding organisation that since 1955 has been providing vital services for citizens with intellectual disabilities and their families. These services include clinical and counselling services, educational and vocational services, employment services, residential and respite care services, specialist Alzheimer's disease services for people with intellectual disabilities and social, sports and recreational services. St. Michael's House is the largest and possibly most well known provider of intellectual disability services in Dublin and the third largest provider nationally. Elsewhere in Dublin Trojan work is being done by the St. John of God organisation on the west and south sides, with the services it provides complementing the work of St. Michael's House on the north side.

St. Michael's House provides services for more than 1,600 children and adults with intellectual disabilities in 170 day and residential services in the Dublin and Leinster area. Every summer since the Government came to office, I have had to draw attention to the lack of resources for this organisation, particularly in respect of its efforts to assist young people who are completing their secondary school education and do not have placements for the coming autumn. There is also a major issue in regard to the cost of providing respite care services for families.

Funding for services for citizens with intellectual disabilities continues to be inadequate and is doled out on an ad hoc and unplanned basis. I take the opportunity to wish the new chief executive officer of St. Michael's House, Ms Anna Shakespeare, the very best as she embarks on that challenging role. She follows in the wake of Ms Patricia Doherty who did tremendous work in that role for many years. Ms Shakespeare will have a very difficult job in leading a charity that has seen a €12.3 million cut in its funding since 2008. At the same time, of course, there has been no decrease in demand for the vital services it provides. Waiting lists are only getting longer and there is the requirement to address changing needs as people with disabilities get older and older parents pass away. The Government often talks about inclusion and equality in education and training, but the cuts it has imposed have forced the closure of a number of school leaver programmes and respite care services.

Like other north side Deputies, I received a number of heartfelt letters last February and March from parents of children with intellectual disabilities who were finishing second level education this year and had no placement to go to, either for training or work in a sheltered setting. Several parents told me that transition passports had been prepared but there was nowhere for their children to transition to. A key complaint often raised by parents and providers is that we do not have multi-annual or guaranteed funding for new school leavers. St. Michael's House has contacted parents to explain that capital budgets are not available and houses are full but an effort is being made to source new buildings across the north side. There is no guarantee, however, if such premises become available, that the organisation will be able to commission them in time to provide placements for the autumn.

The same problem has arisen, as I said, every spring and summer in recent years. A number of people with intellectual disabilities who avail of the services at the St. Michael's House centre on the Malahide Road wrote to me last week outlining their situation:

We are worried that our quality of life has been greatly affected by the cutbacks to our personal income and to funding of the services for people with a disability. We feel alienated and unable to participate in life equally with the rest of society.

The cutbacks imposed on these most vulnerable citizens must be reversed and we must provide sufficient numbers of secure emergency places in residential and respite care services.

Another feature of the cutbacks has been their impact on the valiant staff in intellectual disability services who are dealing with increasing numbers of clients. They are coming under terrible pressure as older parents pass away and adults in their 30s and 40s come into residential placements in an overcrowded setting. There is a huge task to be undertaken.

I thank the Deputy for raising this very important issue which I am taking on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of State at Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, who has done a great deal of commendable work in this area and is making progress in achieving her objectives. I am pleased to outline the position on services for adults with intellectual disabilities at St. Michael's House, including those who need continuing supports from the health service on leaving school and those who avail of respite care services.

In 2014 St. Michael's House received HSE funding of more than €69 million to provide a range of community-based day, respite care and residential services for over 1,600 children and adults with an intellectual disability in some 170 centres in Dublin and County Meath. Additional funding of €12 million was announced in the HSE's service plan for 2015 to meet the full-year costs of providing for school leavers and those graduating from rehabilitative training programmes. Of this funding, €6 million is available in 2015 and being allocated to community health care organisation areas, in line with needs identified and according to the HSE's New Directions policy on day services for adults with a disability.

The HSE has confirmed that all young people and their families will be notified by the end of June of the placement that will be available to them from September. It is very aware of the challenges faced by some service providers and has been engaging locally and nationally with all providers, including St. Michael's House, which may not have the physical capacity within their existing services to accommodate the new intake of school leavers in 2015. In this context, €1.5 million in once-off capital funding is to be allocated by the HSE to organisations to provide suitable buildings, premises and accommodation. Applications have been invited from all service providers to avail of this funding and I understand St. Michael's House has submitted estimates in this regard. These estimates will be forwarded to the national director for social care for consideration with other applications nationally. Capital allocations will be notified to providers by the end of June.

The HSE has informed the Department of Health that while there has been a reduction in residential overnight respite care capacity at St. Michael's House, provision has been made for alternative respite care services such as break-aways and host family respite care to address the demand for residential respite care services.

I thank the Minister of State for her reply. I hope her colleague with responsibility in this area will deliver on the undertakings she outlined, to which she also referred in the replies to a number of parliamentary questions I had submitted to the Department of Health. On additional funding for places, what submission has the Department made to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, in advance of the forthcoming capital budget statement? The Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, told me yesterday he had had extensive discussions with all Departments on his proposals. I hope the Department of Health has had an input into that process for the funding of intellectual disability services in the second half of this year and 2016. Since budget 2008, there have been cumulative cuts to the allocation for St. Michael's House of some €12.3 million, with the global budget for disability services likewise being significantly reduced.

The Minister of State referred to break-away and respite care services.

What commitment can the Minister of State give in that regard? Parents and siblings tell me that all available beds in different centres in north County Dublin and County Louth that used to serve as respite for people from the north side have been necessarily utilised for people in full-time residential care. What commitment can she give that there will be full-scale respite for these citizens?

I know we are heading towards a general election but this issue has had to be raised every single year. There is no multi-annual approach to this. Will the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, approach this when he comes into the Chamber in the forthcoming weeks to give the House a capital statement? Service providers across the country are coming under increasing pressure. They need more resources and one-to-one staffing.

The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, sent me the mapping exercise of the social care division operational plan which was to review the need for day-to-day services. It is essential it is carried out up to 2017 and 2018. Budget 2016 is not far away and there needs to be funding not just on the capital side but the current side to provide for additional staffing. We need to restore staffing levels in this sector. These are our most vulnerable citizens. We owe them a total commitment of care and support. I hope the Minister of State brings that message back to the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, and the Cabinet.

The Deputy has answered some of his own questions and has acknowledged that extensive discussions are taking place on this issue.

The Health Service Executive has confirmed that all young people and their families will be notified by the end of June of the placement that will be available to them from September. While I accept this is a concerning time for all involved, I hope the Deputy can wait until the end of June to see the outcome of this. The HSE is providing alternative respite services such as break-away and host family respite to address the demand for residential respite. Progress has been made in the area and I implore the Deputy to wait until the end of June. I will convey his concerns to the Minister of State who strives hard to deliver in this area.

The Dáil adjourned at 4.25 p.m. until 10 a.m. on Friday, 26 June 2015.