My motion is about the need for the Minister of State with responsibility for disability to clarify whether the €4 million in efficiency cuts in 2010 will still be sought by the HSE in Galway from the voluntary sector such as the Brothers of Charity and Enable Ireland. I tabled this motion last week and since then much has happened. The Minister of State, Deputy John Moloney, has come out — as has the Taoiseach — I believe, to say there will be no cuts to respite care services. However, I am reliably informed as recently as this afternoon by the Galway-based Hope 4 Disability — the Minister probably knows Mr. Eamon Walsh — that they will be cut by 45% when the Brothers of Charity reserves run out by the end of this year. Two community houses will be closed and day care services will be reduced.
There is enormous confusion and uncertainty. As the Government takes its respite for the summer, carers are still not sure whether they will get any break. Let us be clear about what we are talking about. In front of Leinster House last week as well as in Galway and Castlebar where there were other marches, the Minister had an opportunity to see disability with his own eyes. People with disability — in many cases, permanent and total disablement — can only be included in society in some shape or form if they are cared for and if the carer is valued. The carer is a critical person in the relationship with the disabled person. The carer is the abled person who minds the disabled person. It is the duty of the State to mind the abled person, namely, the carer. Otherwise the entire service would fall apart, and most of these people are doing it voluntarily. To cut their respite care services would be the final straw.
In a week that saw people with intellectual disabilities and their families take to the streets to protest against cuts to essential front-line services, confusion and uncertainty still reign about what the Government and the HSE have committed to. The Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney and the Minister for State with responsibility in this area, Deputy Moloney, all stated that front-line services, in particular respite care, would not be cut as a result of the budgetary cuts that have been imposed on service providers in the sector. They failed, however, to deal with existing cuts to services that have seen respite centres closed, community homes consolidated, people forced to move from their homes to more crowded accommodation and day services curtailed.
The Minister will be aware of the human rights investigation of abuses into the John Paul centre in Galway which showed that such abuses took place among young disabled adults there, whereby young people with autism, for example, were crowded into rooms that were only suitable for children. In some cases their knees were up as far as their chins. This is criminal stuff. If we start closing community houses, they will all have to be lumped in together in fewer houses. Is this the record and the legacy this Government wants for people with disabilities? It is going to put the service back 50 years.
The Government has failed to give any assurances for the future of services when families have already been informed that they are to be cut back seriously or closed by the end of the year. People with intellectual disabilities and their families are still very concerned and scared for their future. Some families are trying to cope with the existing withdrawal of supports, especially respite care.
The Government's attack, via the HSE on the disabled is cruel. The Taoiseach, the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, and now perhaps this Minister are saying there will be no further cuts to respite care services. Has the HSE in Galway been told that, because it is planning for more than €4 million in efficiency cuts — €2 million in March and €2.5 million announced just two weeks ago? That is double what the McCarthy report recommended. That is how tough this is. We know the recommendations in the McCarthy report were tough but he never recommended anything this size on the disability sector. I want the Minister to clarify the position and give the truth to this sector.
Will he give a guarantee that respite care services will not be cut by the end of the year when the Brothers of Charity funding runs out, that the two extra community houses will not be closed and day services reduced? Some of the language used by the HSE in this case such as the word "efficiencies" is not pleasing. These are real cuts which hurt real lives.
I thank my lucky stars I do not have a disabled person for whom I must care. If I did, the very least I would need would be a two-day break or holiday occasionally to regain energy to continue caring. These carers are incredible, giving their heart and soul to their work, by which they are inspired and the relationship in caring. They need to be supported. Those who will be affected by the cuts are the most vulnerable and voiceless. If the Government continues with the cuts, it will just bring them more pain. The greatest service the Minister could do is to instruct the HSE in Galway not to introduce any cuts to respite care services in the disability sector.