Covid has had a devastating impact on services for people with disabilities and dementia. Many people who were receiving a full week's support prior to the pandemic are now only receiving one or two days of services per week. The sector has warned that this is because it does not have the additional funding to restore services to full capacity with the Covid protocols in place. Last night, the Opposition tabled a cross-party motion to ensure that these services are able to reopen fully and offer the support that is due to our citizens with disabilities, their families, their carers and others who provide the services.
I have been contacted by hundreds of families who have spoken of their frustration and distress as they have seen their loved ones regress and deteriorate without these services. I have no doubt that Deputies across the House have had similar conversations over the past few months. The scale of this crisis was reflected in the debate last evening where Deputies, including Government Deputies, expressed their genuine concerns. Many families have asked me to share their experiences and stories with the Taoiseach, and so I will.
One mother tells it as follows:
Everybody seems to have forgotten the children and adults who have disabilities. They have been left at home with no consistency or backup. As a parent of an adult daughter with disabilities, I have found it really challenging and wanted to run away at times, but could never do it. But having nothing to look forward to is working backwards for us. She has nothing to occupy her or no possibility of seeing her friends or anyone she can identify with. I've found it hard but she can't put her feelings into words to explain how she is. And I'd say every parent or carer feels the same. We're all but forgotten about.
Another says: "We are on the floor. They aren't helping us family carers or our children or adults with disabilities whatsoever."
Another person writes: "Vulnerable people with disabilities and their carers need supports. We are on the ledge at this stage and we feel very neglected by this government."
Another mother says:
My son turns thirty next year. His whole life has been a constant battle with governments and the HSE for basic supports. As parents, we are constantly fighting for supports and funding. It is draining but it looks like I will again have to fight non-stop to get my son the services he needs.
Lost, abandoned, confused and frustrated is what my son and I feel on a daily basis. He is still at home since the 12th of March. I’ve watched him regress. His anxiety and frustration rise to levels I’ve never seen before. His world is standing still and is nothing changing. We need support and life to resume.
Another person told me: "It was extremely difficult emotionally and physically ever before Covid-19 but now we are on our knees altogether."
To sum up, another said: "Those with disabilities and their families are being swept under the carpet. We are the forgotten people of the Pandemic."
That makes for hard reading and for hard listening but that is it; the unvarnished reality of people's lives without these services. They are "on the ledge", "on the floor", and on their knees. It is now time for the Government to step up and do what is right. I listened to the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, and to Deputy Michael Moynihan, as they described how they have to fight for every cent of funding for disability services. It should not be so.