Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

I am particularly grateful to the Ceann Comhairle for affording me the opportunity to raise this matter as a Topical Issue matter today. Tá mé fíorbhuíoch dóibh go léir. It is an important issue and I am glad the Minister of State, Deputy English, is in the Chamber. He knows County Meath well.

I am very worried about the provision of social housing in County Meath. I acknowledge there are projects ongoing, but they are very small in number. My main concern, however, is that they are getting smaller in number over time. When we look towards 2021 or 2022 we are running out of land in the county for direct building by Meath County Council. We are also running out of projects that are currently in planning. As of this month, Meath County Council has 118 houses at construction stage, 47 at tender stage, 168 at design stage and 19 coming through Part 8 developments. While every one of those houses is important, these numbers are too low.

There are also similar projects being done by approved housing bodies, although these are different in that they are not done directly through the county council. Altogether, these projects account for 604 units, some of which have already been delivered because the figure covers the period from 2017 to 2021. These are located in various places and large numbers of them have been bought from private developers, which can cause its own difficulties.

I do not see any landbank owned by Meath County Council on the horizon. As far as I know, the council does not have a policy or budget for buying land. More important in the context of Dáil Éireann is that the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government does not have a policy or budget to acquire a landbank in County Meath. Where will houses be built in the county? Over the decades, our predecessors, especially those from my party, were able to build large housing projects on large tracts of land. It seems that the possibility of doing that is running out. Many of the direct build housing projects that are up and running, either under construction, going through Part 8, out for tender or in the design stage, are filling in pockets of land that Meath County Council had in its ownership over the years. I do not see beyond that where Meath County Council will be able to build and I do not see the plans for that. This will require a major Government intervention.

It is crazy that by the end of September, 101 couples without children and 23 households with children had been added to the homeless list in County Meath this year. While some of the 53 children in question were placed by homeless services in rented accommodation, that is still a frightening statistic. Every day, the Minister of State and I get emails from families who are about to suffer homelessness. A number of reasons have been given by the county council but the main problems are the issuing of notices to quit and insecure rental. Mortgages are not as much of a problem as rents. So far this year, 762 new applications for social housing support have been granted in Meath. We need much more of a vision for large-scale development in which the State can get involved. This would also have a very positive impact on the housing market. Rather than simply filling in small pockets of land in the county, where is the vision? Where are we going to build houses in future?

I thank Deputy Byrne for bringing forward this topic for discussion and providing us with an opportunity to consider what we have achieved in recent years through Meath County Council. I will also outline our plans for the next few years, including funding allocations.

Deputy Byrne will be aware that housing is one of the Government's top priorities. Investment in Rebuilding Ireland has been significantly increased every year. Apart from having sites and planning permissions, the Government must have the ambition to solve and prioritise this issue, which is the case. This year, we have funding of €2.4 billion for housing and the figure will increase to €2.6 billion next year. Capital spending increased by 25% this year. Money is being set aside to try to make this happen. The Deputy is right that it is important to have a pipeline of projects in place in every county, especially priority counties such as Meath, to ensure this money can be spent on projects to deliver housing. Part of my job, through the housing delivery office of my Department, is to look at the pipeline of projects that are coming through across the areas of build, acquisition, lease, housing assistance payment, HAP, and so on. We this on a weekly and monthly basis with every local authority. We have a very close working relationship with Meath County Council. As a local Deputy, I naturally engage a lot with the council on its projects. Meath County Council has been doing quite well in recent years in responding to the national drive from the Government to improve the situation around housing and put plans in place for the future.

Nationally, 27,000 households will be helped with their housing needs in 2019 and more than 10,000 new social houses will be delivered. These include more than 6,000 direct build units and leased or acquired housing. These are 10,000 taxpayer funded houses that were not available last year.

Meath County Council's share of that is approximately 1,100 and rightly so.

With regard to the social housing programme in Meath, the local authority itself is responsible in the first instance for housing delivery on the ground. I cannot tell the local authority what sites to use and the Department does not micromanage every detail. We work with the authority on the proposals it brings forward and make an envelope of money available for projects. We have made that very clear. We have worked with the local authority to set targets for 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 and Meath has reached those targets at all stages and gone beyond them. We have made it very clear that the funding is available from the Department to go beyond those targets to put a greater pipeline of projects in place. In 2018, Meath County Council delivered through all of the various mechanisms more than 1,200 new solutions, of which 436 were new social houses provided through build, acquisition and lease. That was 100 more than the target. We funded that happily. It is my job as Minister of State from the local area to ensure the funding is there. Provision through HAP, RAS and so on came to 767 homes. In total, Meath delivered 1,204 houses in 2018 and will be very close to that number in 2019 given the pipeline that is there. Since Rebuilding Ireland commenced in 2016, over 3,400 units in total have been brought forward by Meath County Council across all the schemes.

The ambition is there on the part of the local authority and on the part of the Department. The targets are being reached and I understand we have to put in place the pipeline projects for 2020 and 2021. They are there for 2019 and 2020 to match the targets but I am looking beyond that to 2021 and 2022. We support the local authority to purchase land banks and develop more sites but we have moved on from the days of bringing forward large-scale sites to put hundreds of social houses in a single area while all the private houses are built somewhere else. We try to develop sites with social and affordable housing and private housing together. The projects in the pipeline that are larger include the site in Ashbourne which was previously owned by the Department of Education and Skills and there are sites in Ratoath too. Bettystown is coming forward this year and next year and housing is being brought forward this year, hopefully, in Cortown and Oldcastle. There are also sites in Nobber, Carlanstown, Donore, Dunshaughlin and Kells. Many sites are being developed which will give us the supply we need for 2019. We have been very clear with the local authority about putting in place more projects, including on its own lands. It has a large land bank in Navan at the Farganstown site and is bringing forward proposals there. The money was sanctioned last week and a project has gone to tender for a new road to open up those lands. That land bank will be brought into use. We encourage the local authority to put together more land banks and will work with it on that.

We recognise the need for the local authority to put in place a pipeline of projects. Meath County Council has, as a rule, responded to what is required of it over the last couple of years. Naturally, the ambition is to go even further. There is a great deal of private sector development in Meath also. It is probably among the top three or four counties for private housing development and that will bring forward other options under Part V, including turn-key options. We want to encourage and continue with that too because we recognise that there is a great deal of demand in Meath to which we want to respond. I am confident the local authority is in a position to do so. It needs to do so and we will certainly work with it on a weekly basis to bring more projects forward. However, the Department cannot tell the local authority which sites in which areas it should use. We can work with the local authority on any project it brings forward. I will try to work with the authority to ensure we give it quick answers and respond as quickly as we can to any proposals it brings forward. We will continue to do that.

The Minister of State has set out the targets which he says have been exceeded by Meath County Council. I am not going to be critical of the local authority which is working with limited resources. When the Minister of State refers to 1,200 being the total housing delivery for 2018, 767 of those units, or the vast majority, relate to HAP and RAS. That is not sustainable social housing. It is also a reason people are taken off the housing list. Their housing needs are deemed to be met when they go on HAP. While HAP, which is the old rent allowance in a new guise, is important, it is not the answer and it does not provide the stability people need. That is the problem. People need stability and are entitled to it.

I can see the arguments behind why the Minister of State says we are not going back to building hundreds of social housing units in the one place. They are obvious. However, it is not an excuse for having ten here, 20 there or even the two largest projects planned for Meath of 55 units in Ashbourne and 42 in Navan. Farganstown is listed on the current design plans. While the social housing in various rural areas is welcome and there is demand for it and while it has to go through proper planning and so on, it is a drop in the ocean compared to what is required. It is important that whatever social housing is provided is on bus routes, in established communities and suitable for people to live in. We do not want people moving to areas they do not know with no public transport, which is something I have seen happen over the years.

The ambition has to be much greater. While we can see houses going up and houses being bought, I do not see that greater vision into the future. I see a great deal of plugging of holes in terms of filling in sites the local authority already has ownership of and I see that running out. I see a greater reliance on HAP than is there even already and a greater reliance on the purchase of houses in the private market which has the other effect on the housing market of increasing the price for everyone else. If the local authority was building its own houses, it would actually reduce the price for everyone else as there would be more houses there. We have it the wrong way around and are entitled to see a better vision for social housing.

Deputy Byrne should look at his own party's proposals. No party in opposition has greater ambition in relation to social housing than we do in government. We have set out a ten-year plan which brings Rebuilding Ireland forward with a commitment to deliver up to 1,200 social houses a year. I do not see anyone else here with that ambition. The ambition is there at national level and it is backed up by the money allocated to make it happen. The Deputy is right that we need every local authority to match that ambition by bringing forward plans and a pipeline of projects. As a Minister of State in the Department, I sit down with local authorities and officials on a weekly and monthly basis to see where they are going with this and what are their ambitions. In some cases, it is 50 units, 60 units, 70 units or 90 units and it can go over 100 units. However, bringing forward a massive site just for social housing will not happen. The site in Navan is 28 acres and its initial phase involves fewer than 100 social houses. However, a great many more can go on that at the right and appropriate time as determined by Meath County Council.

As I said to Deputy Byrne's colleagues, we will match the ambition of Meath County Council. The funding will be put in place to fund the housing projects it brings forward. Whether it is ten large sites or 40 small sites is a decision for Meath County Council to bring forward through Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael county councillors working together. Meath has responded to the initial targets set and is on track to meet them by delivering over 1,056 permanent new build homes itself. In the short term, it uses the HAP scheme to meet people's needs today and tomorrow and it does so very well. Deputy Byrne mentioned homeless families. The majority of people who become homeless in Meath do so for a very temporary period. The local authority responds quickly using all of our schemes to find those people houses and rightly so. That is what we expect it to do.

I understand what the Deputy is saying. He wants to see what is happening in 2020 and 2021 and I share his wish. We want to work with the local authority to fund plans for the future. We are up for it in our Department and the money is ring-fenced to match that ambition. Meath County Council has brought its housing waiting list down by 20% every year for the last two or three years and is well capable of doing this. We need to continue that positive trend, build on it and bring forward many more projects while also dealing with vacant units. An example in Kells is the €10 million which has been set aside for a street of vacant houses. Meath County Council is beginning to take on a great many initiatives and it can do more with our funding.

Services for People with Disabilities

Cuisle is a unique holiday centre in Ireland and, probably, across Europe. It provides 24-7 care support at a fully accessible holiday and respite centre. It also provides nursing support. The Irish Wheelchair Association has said one of the reasons it is pulling out of the centre is that there has been a reduction in bed night usage at the facility. The six-year average bed-night usage at Cuisle is 4,800 per annum. By the end of 2019, 4,380 bed nights will have been used. The reason for the drop-off has been the lack of recruitment of staff to operate a holiday facility over weekends.

We are now being told Cuisle is not suitable because it is an institution. However, the Irish Wheelchair Association wrote to members of Roscommon County Council in 2018 to say that its facilities resembled those of a hotel and included 34 en suite twin and double bedrooms, the Castle restaurant, Harry's Bar, a leisure suite and gyms. That does not look to me like it is an institution. Further, BDO consultants prepared a report at the time setting out a business plan for the tourism development of that facility, yet the Irish Wheelchair Association now says it is not viable.

I will add to the sentiments expressed by Deputy Naughten - Deputy Fitzmaurice will speak in a moment - on the shock and consternation in the community of Donamon in Roscommon at how this matter has been handled. The Minister of State visited the area approximately two and a half years ago and he was quite impressed with the centre. He has been a champion for people with disabilities. The budget for 2019 was almost €40 million, which is a record amount. Money is required and refurbishments need to be done. That will cost €1.2 million or €1.3 million. Surely this money can be found out of that €40 million budget?

The Irish Wheelchair Association needs to pull its horns in here. It must respect the public representatives who were elected to represent the people and meet them when they are asked to do so. I urge the Minister of State, who is good at his job, to clarify the information that has been provided to him by Members of the Oireachtas and to ensure that action is taken. This is a disgraceful act. It is not acceptable that any group should make a decision of this type without consultation.

I thank the Minister of State for the meeting earlier. Some 48 jobs in a rural area are at stake, as well as the fine facilities at the Cuisle centre. There has been talk of the new hotel model. Nobody is opposed to the use of different models but when one listens to them they speak of a ten year projected model. Do they refer to a new HSE model? Works are required but, to be fair, the Divine World Missionaries have said that there would not be a problem with a lease or trying to help financially. We need to pause. Solutions must be found and I ask the Minister of State to intervene in order to ensure that those jobs are saved. This facility is the jewel in the crown in our area. It is one of the finest facilities in the west. We talk about the Hidden Heartlands and there is great potential in this with people working together. Will the Minister of State talk to the head of the Irish Wheelchair Association in order to ensure that this is paused so that plans can be put in place for the benefit of everyone, especially the wheelchair users who avail of the facility.

I thank Deputies Denis Naughten, Eugene Murphy and Fitzmaurice for raising this very important issue and for giving me the opportunity to respond.

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This year, €1.9 billion has been allocated to the HSE's disability services programme. This is funding the provision of a wide and complex range of services and supports to people with disabilities, including the provision of home support packages and respite services, within available resources. Respite can occur in a variety of settings for any length of time, depending on the needs of the individual, the family and available resources. In recent years, there have been positive changes in accessibility standards in Ireland that now present a greater range of choice and options for people with disabilities seeking a holiday or respite. Consequently, there has been a shift in best practice approaches. This is reflected in current HSE policy - Time to Move on from Congregated Settings: A Strategy for Community Inclusion - and Sláintecare.

In line with this, Irish Wheelchair Association has decided to transition its holiday service in the west to provide accessible hotel holidays into the future, and to move away from its holiday facility at Cuisle, County Roscommon. Cuisle requires major capital development in respect of fire upgrade works estimated to be in the order of €1.5million. The Irish Wheelchair Association has indicated that this level of capital funding is not available within its current resources. Notwithstanding the requirement to ensure regulatory standards are maintained, the HSE has confirmed to Irish Wheelchair Association that this level of capital investment is not considered viable in the context of other potential alternative service options and models from which to deliver respite services.

The Irish Wheelchair Association is planning to provide a wider range of choice to people with disabilities seeking to take a supported respite holiday in the west by partnering with accessible hotels. This new and innovative service will commence in March 2020 in conjunction with the HSE. The Irish Wheelchair Association has been operating comparable hotel holiday breaks in Kilkenny since 2018 and has received positive feedback across the board from guests. Some 99% of guests said that they would return. This service was also shortlisted for an Irish Healthcare Centre award in 2019. The Irish Wheelchair Association hopes that in the coming years, its accessible hotel holiday service will expand to key destinations across the country.

The move to the new holiday service will mean that the Cuisle buildings will not open in 2020. The Irish Wheelchair Association acknowledges the contribution of staff at Cuisle for their contribution to the respite service in the west. Where possible, the Irish Wheelchair Association will offer redeployment opportunities to staff and is engaging with local staff members and their representatives to ensure minimum impact.

We are looking at 45 job losses. If we were we talking about the Minister of State's constituency, the equivalent would be 1,200 job losses. The staff have been given 20 working days notice. That does not show that the Irish Wheelchair Association is acknowledging the contribution of the staff. The staff have also been told by management that there are no, or very minimal opportunities, for redeployment.

The Minister of State has just told the House that the Irish Wheelchair Association is suspending its respite services for five months until the new service comes into play next March. That is totally unacceptable to the service users. Finally, under no circumstances will we in the community will not accept the removal of equipment which was fundraised for by the local community and was funded through the Exchequer being removed from the Cuisle facility because we believe the facility has a viable future as a going concern. We plead with the Minister of State to ensure that there is an extension of 12 months to allow us to put in place a viable alternative.

I plead with the Minister of State to pause the Irish Wheelchair Association's decision. Let us give it a year to see if we can examine and resolve this problem. I am using strong words but how dare the Irish Wheelchair Association carry on like this and behave in this way towards elected representatives? Its treatment of workers has been disgraceful. Some 45 or 46 jobs are at stake. The treatment of the workers is outrageous. What is wrong with this facility? When he visited the area, the Minister of State stated that the facility is outstanding. The decision must be reversed, at least in the short term. Many people use this facility. Not long ago, I received a call from Deirdre, an Irish Wheelchair Association member from Dublin, who had read about this online as did many of her friends. This is disgraceful carry on from a body which has just received €40 million, with the help of the Minister of State, over the past year. I again ask the Minister of State to please reverse this decision, in the short term at least.

There is no way that by next March the Irish Wheelchair Association will be able to accommodate over 20,000 bed nights throughout the country. The Irish Wheelchair Association has already outlined that the facilities required are not there in many counties. In general, one gives three or six months notice to staff when it is planned to close a premises. These staff were given 28 or 29 days. On the matter of redundancy or redeployment, the staff have been told bluntly that the chance of redeployment is minimal to none. If the Irish Wheelchair Association ultimately wants to decide that it will not run this any more that is fine. However, it should give us space to work on it. To be fair, the owners of the buildings, the Divine World Missionaries, are willing to help out. A setting of drawings is required. It is possible to throw figures at anything and say something will cost €1.5 million or pluck them out of the sky, but let us see. The community, along with the Divine World Missionaries, Government help and the Irish Wheelchair Association must be given the space required to help immediately.

I thank the Deputies for their support for Cuisle.

I take on board the points they raised, particularly with regard to staff. I will convey their views and concerns to the HSE.

The Deputies mentioned the Irish Wheelchair Association partnering with hotels. This is to provide people with disabilities with modern and fully-inclusive independent hotel breaks at a range of locations, with easy access to local towns and a wider choice of amenities. The Irish Wheelchair Association has the ethos of delivering services that respond to the wishes of its members. The new service will be located in accessible hotels in the Galway area and the midlands. The Irish Wheelchair Association is in the final stages of the procurement process and will soon be able to announce the exact locations involved.

I am aware of the matters raised by the Deputies and I agree that there will be an impact on people with high-dependency issues. These will require clarification and I have instructed HSE officials in the past few minutes to ensure that this will happen in consultation with the Irish Wheelchair Association. I will revert to the relevant Deputies with this clarification over the coming days. It is essential that common sense prevails. In that context, the Deputies have put forward sensible solutions. I give a commitment that these solutions will be put on the table in trying to resolve the matter.

We will not get any better community facilities than those in County Roscommon.

Mental Health Services Provision

The Minister of State may have heard on the radio this morning the really shocking news that the St. Joseph's dementia care facility in Shankill has sent letters to the families of those people with dementia in the facility stating the belief that it may have to close very soon, possibly by the end of the year. This is the biggest and, arguably, the best dementia care facility in the country but it may have to close because of a deficit in funding. This is shocking news for people. Everybody in my area knows somebody with a family member in the facility. A member of my extended family suffered from dementia and she spent her final years there. The staff were wonderful and the care was really amazing.

One of the features of St. Joseph's is that it caters for high-dependency dementia sufferers. It was indicated to me by families of people using the service earlier in the summer that there was a problem. I tabled a parliamentary question at the time expressing concern about the funding deficit and the implications it could have for St. Joseph's but I was informed, in a fairly cold response, that the HSE was discharging its funding responsibilities under the fair deal scheme, which is more properly known as the nursing home support scheme. The problem is that this does not provide sufficient funds for high-dependency sufferers. The extra cost of providing care for high-dependency sufferers of dementia has been covered by St. Joseph's, leading to a deficit of €7 million building up to 2012. St. Joseph's has managed to cover the latter up to now. It is facing an ongoing deficit for this year of €1.2 million and it simply cannot cover it any more. This deficit exists because the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, the HSE and, ultimately, the Government will not provide the additional necessary funds for high-dependency dementia sufferers.

Ms Emma Belmaine, the chief executive of the facility, put it very well when she explained the cruel injustice of this for families and dementia sufferers. It is difficult enough for family members to deal with high-dependency dementia sufferers without them being treated in this way. She states:

Decision makers and funders need to understand that people living with a diagnosis of dementia cannot be discriminated against and are entitled to the same spectrum of care as those with a different terminal illness. Funding for dementia care also needs to be increased significantly and allocated fairly, not based on numbers in beds but on the needs of people. It should not matter whether the person is receiving that specialist dementia care in a HSE facility, a private nursing home or an independent not-for-profit facility such as St. Joseph's.

I ask the Government, as a matter of urgency, to cover the deficit and ensure the biggest and best care facility for dementia sufferers in this country does not close, causing great hardship for dementia sufferers and their families.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly.

St. Joseph's in Shankill is a part of the St. John of God Hospitaller Services Group. It provides both residential care and day care for service users, all of whom have a diagnosis of dementia. Many of the 60 residential places are funded through the nursing homes support scheme. Separately, the HSE contracts for approximately 25 day care places per day at St. Joseph's.

The nursing homes support scheme, commonly referred to as the fair deal scheme, is a system of financial support for people who require long-term residential care. Participants contribute to the cost of their care according to their means while the State pays the balance of the cost. The scheme aims to ensure that long-term nursing home care is accessible and affordable for everyone and that people are cared for in the most appropriate settings. The nursing homes support scheme is expected to support 23,042 people at any one time in 2019. The scheme's budget for 2019 saw an increase of €24.3 million over 2018, making a total budget of €985.8 million for 2019. In 2020, the scheme will see a further investment in its budget of €45 million, bringing the total annual budget for the scheme to €1.03 billion.

This substantial investment will provide ongoing long-term residential care over the course of 2020, ensuring that the scheme can continue to deliver affordable and accessible nursing home care for our citizens with long-term care needs. The NTPF has been designated by the Minister for Health pursuant to section 40 of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009 as a body authorised to negotiate with proprietors of non-HSE registered nursing homes to reach agreement on the maximum price that can be charged for the provision of long-term residential care services to nursing homes support scheme residents.

The NTPF has statutory independence in the performance of its function and negotiates with nursing homes on an individual basis. The Minister for Health does not have any role in this regard. The NTPF has clear and established processes for agreeing prices and has successfully negotiated terms with over 430 private and voluntary nursing homes participating in the scheme. The NTPF's processes are available to all nursing homes and since the end of 2017 there has been a net increase in the number of nursing homes operating in Ireland, with an increase of almost 1,300, or 5.7%, in the number of beds in the nursing homes with which the NTPF has agreed terms. In its statutory role to negotiate maximum prices charged for the provision of long-term residential care services to nursing homes support scheme residents, the NTPF established processes are the appropriate mechanism for engagement. The established processes include provision for an NTPF review mechanism where agreement is not initially reached on the price.

The HSE has been involved in extensive engagement with the St. John of God Hospitaller Services Group about the day care service at St. Joseph's and this engagement is ongoing. I acknowledge the role of private and voluntary providers in residential care provision. I encourage the St. John of God group to continue the engagement with the HSE on day care services. I also encourage the continued engagement with the NTPF processes with regard to the prices for the residential care services.

My office has been inundated in recent days by frightened people who have family members suffering with dementia in Saint Joseph's Shankill because of the possibility that this amazing facility will go. That would cause extreme hardship for dementia sufferers, their families and the wonderful staff and 100 volunteers who assist in this dementia care centre. For example, Frank wrote to me. He said his father died aged 48 years. Then his mother died two years ago in 2017. She was 92. He has been taking care of his stepfather, aged 87, who has had dementia since his mother's death. He works full-time and depends heavily on the service and help of the wonderful people in the day care facility at Saint Joseph's. He said without the service he does not know what he will do. He said the letter he received regarding the consequences should the facility close frightened him. I have received a range of other similar correspondence. Frank and the others who have written to me want to know that the Government is not going to let this facility close for the want of €1.2 million.

Will the Minister of State to acknowledge the point I made earlier? It was the same point Ms Emma Balmaine made, which is that the funding provided under the NTPF does not recognise the difference between low-dependency and high-dependency dementia sufferers. Every other part of our health service recognises that. No one suggests that regardless of how bad a person's cancer is or what level it is at, that person should get the same treatment regardless. The treatment is tailored to the need but when it comes to dementia sufferers the Government has decided a given amount is as much money as a dementia sufferer is getting and no more, regardless of his or her need. That is cruel and inhumane. By the way, the day care rate given by the HSE to Saint Joseph's Shankill has not increased by a cent since 2008 even though all the costs have gone up dramatically since then. I appeal to the Minister of State to get the Government to intervene to ensure this facility does not close because many people, staff and families will suffer if it does.

A Cheann Comhairle, can I have 60 seconds to speak, please? Would that be possible?

Deputy Donnelly wants 60 seconds.

I wish to add my request to this. I wrote to the Minister in June about this. This is the most important and largest dementia care centre of its kind anywhere in the country. Those involved are leading the way. They have revolutionised dementia care in this country. They have been raising the issue for a long time. The centre is a high-care facility and it is getting approximately three quarters of the funding it needs. What is being sought is not much extra.

The letter the chief executive sent out explained that the centre will have to close the doors in approximately seven weeks. Approximately half the staff and patients there come from my constituency of Wicklow. The anguish and fear felt in Wicklow today over this is unprecedented.

Will the Government, as a matter of urgency, agree to short-term funding? We are talking about a small amount. It could ensure funding was in place for a six-month reprieve. That could give time for a proper renegotiation. We have to back these dementia facilities.

Of course, I will bring the concerns of the Deputies back to the Minister of State with responsibility for this area, Deputy Jim Daly, in respect of the important points raised in the debate. I fully acknowledge the important role played by the voluntary and private providers in the provision of services such as residential care and day care for older people, including those with dementia.

I assure the House that appropriate mechanisms exist for service providers such as Saint Joseph's Shankill to engage with the relevant agencies. The Deputies can tell those people who have major concerns or who are worried that, in respect of day care services, there has been intensive engagement between the HSE and Saint Joseph's Shankill this year. The HSE has committed to continuing this engagement with a view to further assisting the facility where possible.

The majority of residents are supported through the nursing home support scheme, under which residents contribute to the cost of the care according to their means while the State pays the balance of the costs. The NTPF has statutory responsibility for negotiating with individual private and voluntary nursing homes to reach agreement in respect of the maximum price that will be charged for the provision of residential care services to nursing home support scheme residents. The fund has well established processes with which all providers must engage. In the event that agreement cannot be reached through the engagement process with the fund, there is a process whereby the nursing home may seek a review by the NTPF chief executive officer. I understand that the initial engagement and negotiation process is active. Given the NTPF has statutory independence in the performance of its functions, it would not be appropriate for me to comment any further other than to reiterate my encouragement to Saint Joseph's Shankill to engage fully with the established processes.

That concludes our consideration of Topical Issue matters for today. We now move to No. 33, which is-----

Can I raise a point of order?

I do not intend to, and will not, disrupt the order of the Dáil. We had a long discussion yesterday and, as you know, proceedings are ongoing about that. There will be more discussion about the issue of money messages. However, I want to get some clarity on precisely what happened to the arrangements for today. The communications that we got leave very big questions in my mind as to exactly how the arrangements for today unfolded or were revised. In the first instance, notwithstanding the issue of the motion and your ruling on the motion, a Cheann Comhairle, there was a slot for Solidarity-People Before Profit due to start now. That was still in the arrangements for today this morning when the business schedule was sent out. At some point later in the day, that slot disappeared. How did the decision happen? How did the slot disappear?

That is very simple.

I have one last question. Given that we only received the correspondence at 9 p.m. on Monday, was it your expectation that we could then in that short period submit another motion for the slot, notwithstanding debate about the motion? I just want clarity about how all that unfolded.

I am very conscious that this matter is now sub judice.

I am not going to discuss the substantial issue or ask you----

It was my understanding, insofar as my understanding is of any benefit in these circumstances, that an alternative motion was suggested to your group, which would have allowed you to debate the generality of issues and, indeed, some of the specific aspects of the issues that you would have been debating had your motion been tabled, but you chose not to avail of that so we have no choice. We have no valid business from you. We had a vote on the Order of Business yesterday and we must proceed in accordance with that vote. We further had a discussion, as you are aware, at the Dáil reform committee where all of the members, save your own Solidarity representative, were of the view that we were proceeding in a correct and appropriate manner.

I wish to clarify one point. The vote that we took yesterday still included a slot for Solidarity-People Before Profit, did it not? That slot remained in the arrangements for today this morning.

We voted yesterday on the arrangements. The arrangements were agreed. There was subsequently no business submitted by yourselves that could go on the agenda and, therefore, we are where we are now.

Because the business we submitted was disallowed.

Yes. You chose not to submit that which would have been allowed, and would have allowed you to have the same debate.

Somebody else's motion.

Yes, but the debate was-----

It was not our motion.

Let us not get into it.