I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, for coming to the House to deal with the issue of respite care services for children in counties Cavan and Monaghan. Respite care service provision has reached crisis point for over 100 families across counties Cavan and Monaghan who are on a waiting list for support. Respite care services for children and adolescents with disabilities across counties Cavan and Monaghan have deteriorated significantly in recent months, with more families unable to access the services they so badly need. Parents and carers are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of respite care services, so much so that a parents action group has been set up to highlight the issues the families are facing. The parents action group for respite care services held its first meeting in Cootehill, County Cavan before Christmas. It was a robust, heated and highly charged meeting, as parents are at the end of their tether.
I have been raising this issue on the floor of the House for months in an effort to relieve the plight of these parents and ensure proper, consistent supportive services will be put in place. On 4 January the parents took to the streets in a demonstration to convey their anger at the lack of respite care services. They protested outside the entrance to St. Davnet's in Monaghan to highlight their concerns. I do not need to tell the Minister of State that they are the parents of children with disabilities, physical and intellectual, who face huge challenges every day of their lives. They should not have to resort to protesting on the streets outside a hospital, but they felt it was necessary to have their voices heard and have the HSE take this matter as seriously as it is for them.
The only facility currently available to parents who need respite care for their children is Annalee respite care centre in Cootehill. The centre has five beds, but no places have been available since mid-September. I understand beds recently became available, but there was a crisis up until that point. I commend the hard work of the chairperson of the parents action group, Jennie Farrelly, who, with a delegation which comprised Niamh Brannigan, Kate McCabe, Seamus Cahill and my colleague, Deputy Brendan Smith, recently met the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, to raise their concerns. I take my hat off to these parents who not only take the time to hold public meetings and protest but also to come to Dublin to meet the Minister of State.
I am not exaggerating when I say services in this area are in crisis. Listening is not enough. The parents need action. They need another centre dedicated to children who need respite care services. They face enough challenges in life without having the lifeline of respite care withdrawn from them and being left for months without a break. It is utterly disgraceful that they have been abandoned in a vacuum with no end in sight. The obvious response of the HSE in the midst of the crisis was to find alternative accommodation or offer increased home care support hours to the families, but it did nothing. It is my understanding the service has resumed since 11 January, but I would like the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, to outline what plan is in place to deal with the backlog which has built up in the past five months.