I welcome the opportunity to raise this very important topic. I attended a meeting with the Louth Respite Working Group this week. Members of the group outlined in great detail the current situation regarding the provision of respite care in County Louth. In addition to the facilities already available, Louth currently requires respite care for an extra 60 families. The current situation is that seven beds are provided by St. John of God in Drumcar, with 42 adults and nine children having access. In addition to this, there is a three-bed facility in a small bungalow in Ardee, which allows 81 adults access respite care on a basis of one weekend and one five-day week annually. We have the Maria Goretti facility in Lordship which gives access to respite care for 80 families. On top of this, six young adults will leave children's respite this year and a further 12 next year but none of these will have access to adult respite care.
It has been clearly identified in County Louth that additional adult respite care services are urgently required for older adults with a disability living at home with older parents, for younger adults with challenging behaviour, and for emergency or crisis situations. These needs were agreed by the HSE but it stated that it had no funds in its existing service plan. I do not accept this and ask that funding be made available as a matter of urgency. Also, a very serious situation arose in the summer months when respite care services were cancelled in St. John of God in Drumcar, which resulted in a number of families being left in limbo and without respite care services at very short notice. This is not acceptable and we, as a Government, should be doing more for these families, not only in County Louth but throughout the country.
I will give the example of a case involving a 17 year old boy with severe autism spectrum disorder, ASD, and intellectual disability, ID, who experiences random meltdowns along with physically challenging behaviour. These events have escalated over time. There have also been a number of serious assaults on his mother and other family members. An incident happened while he was in respite care which resulted in no respite care for a period of months. At this stage there was no other respite care available to the family. The family applied for a three-month residential assessment. Their business case was supported by the local HSE staff but was refused by senior management. This decision is typical in these circumstances. This child will be 18 years of age soon at which stage there will be no respite care available to the family. This is not acceptable and it is a disgrace that this is still allowed to happen.
Another situation that must be considered is the needs of older families with adult dependants with a disability. Many parents of these children are now in their sixties and seventies and in many cases they are suffering from ill health. They would previously have received respite care services but now this is unavailable due to the age of the child. These are people who probably need respite services more than others, yet these are the people who have the most difficulty accessing respite services. We must remember that respite does not end when a child reaches the age of 18.
I ask the Minister to examine the situation urgently in respect of respite care in County Louth and to find a proper solution to this very serious matter.
There must be a ring-fenced revenue stream allocated to the Louth HSE to provide appropriate, regular and planned respite for families with adult children with a disability in Louth.