I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, to the House. Is the Minister for Health and Children aware that in the funding allocation announced recently, no additional funding was provided for the Health Service Executive, western region, for children under the age of 12 years with special needs? All resources were allocated to adults. It is important that the Minister realises that no funding has been applied to younger people in the western region.
There are 400 people, adult and young, in the western region with special needs. From this coming September, eight children in County Galway will have to be kept at home with their families because no resources have been provided to supply the health support needed to provide education for them. Many of these children had hoped to get day care facilities, but these cannot be provided due to lack of funding. The Minister only recently indicated the total allocation in this area to the HSE, western region. I was told today that this funding is inadequate. It is so inadequate that it is already assigned to provide support for people provided with places last year.
There is not sufficient provision for the level of need in the western area, particularly as regards support for younger children between six and nine years of age who must do without funding. After all that has been said regarding special needs education and, more recently, the Disability Bill, I must point out that the problem is not in the education area, but in the health area. It is failing to provide support for young people of that age within the education system. They cannot get access to the funding.
There was a time when we could say the necessary professionals were not available, but that is no longer the case. We have adequate numbers of professional people available, but the required financial support is not provided by the Department of Health and Children. I will read a section from two letters about a particular child who has been denied support. One of the parents gave up her job in order to support her young, profoundly handicapped child. When the father returns home from work he takes over from the mother. These parents provide a 24-hour response and commitment to the child, with some support from the extended family when available.
It is not good enough that there are eight children in County Galway who will not get the support necessary from the Department to allow them into the education system with the necessary health support. The Department of Education and Science will willingly provide the services they need, but the children cannot go to school unless they have the necessary health services. Children cannot be sent into a situation where the teachers are there but the other necessary health supports are not.
The letter from which I will now read relates to a particular case highlighted to the service providers in the area last November. It states:
The situation which exists is that you are free to apply for a preschool placement for [your child] in Roscommon. However, because you live [half a mile over the border] in Co. Galway, the Roscommon services will ask Galway to fund that placement at the rate of approximately €36,000 to €40,000 per annum. [That amount for a placement in an existing service]. If new money is made available by the Health Service Executive to create new preschool places this is not a problem as the funding would be made available from the Galway budget to support [the child] for the length of her placement. If however no new money is made available then the fact is that at present there is no contingency or unused money which could be paid to Roscommon. At the moment I am talking to the Galway agencies about numbers of children moving in and out of their centres next September so I am not in a position to say if there are any vacancies or if there is any opportunity to create the funding from within existing resources. I must caution that the latter is unlikely given the numbers of children in Early Childhood Services looking for placements.
There are eight of these children looking for placements. They will have to stay at home. What Government can stand over this situation, stand idly by and allow this to continue?
I will provide the details of this specific case to the Minister of State. Will he at least give some hope that these parents, who have done everything possible within their capabilities to provide as best they can for their children, will get the support they should get from the agencies? If there is a turf war between service providers at local level because one person lives half a mile over a border, the Minister of State should see to it that these providers have their heads knocked together to ensure that whatever resources they have are used to the best extent.