Commencement Matters

Irish Prison Service

I thank the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Damien English, for coming to the Seanad to address my nursing colleagues' extreme concern about the proposed changes to their working rosters at Cloverhill Prison. These changes, if implemented, will lead to the halving of nursing cover on a nightly basis. My colleagues are extremely worried about the repercussions of this decision on staff welfare and safety and similarly the welfare and safety of prisoners to whom they have a duty of care as professionals registered with An Bord Altranais.

Cloverhill Prison is an extremely volatile working environment. It receives committals from Leinster courts, plus emergency committals from County Donegal to County Kerry where homicide charges are made. It receives all Garda national immigration bureau committals from the airport for deportation. Many of those committed have ingested drugs and require 24-hour observation. A total of 60% of committals from the Bridewell Garda station have drug and alcohol addiction requiring immediate intervention for withdrawal. Prisoners are accepted into the prison throughout the day and night. This situation, therefore, requires 24-hour triage cover within the institution. To suggest otherwise would be irresponsible and asking for trouble. The prisoners who arrive at Cloverhill Prison are of an extremely volatile nature. Many are suffering from underlying physical and mental illnesses, abuse illegal substances and in most cases are addicted, pose a high suicide risk, are extremely vulnerable and have various other problems. Deterioration in health due to these issues and more places an acute demand on the expertise of the nurses and one nurse simply could not meet the needs as outlined in the proposed new roster.

Suicides are an ever present risk within the prison population. To suggest one nurse could attend a suicide attempt and meet the needs demanded by this situation is impractical and reckless. An incident which happened in 2014 was highlighted to me by the nurse concerned who attended the scene. The nurse had 26 years nursing experience, but the scene she attended during that night was something she had never seen before. She described it as a "bloodbath". Her priority and that of her nursing colleague on that night was obviously the prisoner. She vividly remembers the scene in the cell and says that were a similar incident to arise again, one nurse simply could not cope with the pressures. We need two nurses for competent cardiopulmonary resuscitation, CPR. A great deal of CPR is administered in the prison following the taking of an overdose and an attempted suicide. In some cases there are completed suicides.

The nurses' concerns have been consistently highlighted to prison management through their union but to no avail. The responses and lack of acknowledgement of their concerns are extremely worrying. In recent days staff have become aware of rumours that the proposed roster changes will be shelved. If this is the case, it is to be welcomed from all angles. However, I would like to respond to my nursing colleagues and provide certainty for them that from here on, double cover will remain in place, that their safety and welfare, with that of the prisoners, will remain more secure and the cloud of doubt resulting in a fraught atmosphere between staff and management can now lift. I would appreciate it if the Minister of State provided me with that certainty.

I apologise on behalf of the Tánaiste who cannot be here to take the debate. She wishes to emphasise that the provision of health care is a statutory obligation of the Irish Prison Service, as defined in the prison rules of 2007. She assures the Senator that the care and rehabilitation of persons in custody are core aims of the Irish Prison Service. The IPS health care standards outline its commitment to provide equivalence of care for the prisoner population in custody. In this regard, the prison health care service seeks to provide prisoners with access to the same range and quality of health care services as are available under the medical card scheme in the community.

Nursing care in the prison service has, historically, been provided by a group of staff referred to as medical orderlies who are prison officers with some basic first-aid training. In 1999 qualified registered nurses were first introduced to the Irish Prison Service. The drivers of this development were mainly external and came from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Penal Reform Trust, the Olden report and others. The introduction of professional nursing services into the prison system greatly improved the quality and standard of care. A prison nurse will generally work under the direction of a chief nurse officer and in partnership with prison doctors, while overall responsibility for the management of a prison or place of detention rests with the governor of the institution concerned.

In recent years the Irish Prison Service has experienced difficulties in recruiting nurses to work in prisons. The 2015 competition conducted by the Public Appointments Service has resulted in 15 nurse appointments to date and the Irish Prison Service has been advised that the panel will not generate further nurses for Dublin prisons. Notwithstanding these difficulties, the Irish Prison Service has recently concluded a comprehensive health care review which will provide for the deployment of nursing resources to prisons throughout the estate on a more consistent basis.

The Tánaiste advises the Senator that the Irish Prison Service worked with the review partners to ensure nurse resourcing in all Irish prisons was commensurate with the population of the prison, the profile of prisoners and the health care needs of the prison population. The revised level of night nursing cover is considered appropriate in the context of demands for health care provision during the night shift. Cloverhill Prison carries out the bulk of its health care activity during the day and night-time nursing activity tends to be concentrated between the hours of 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Following analysis, a proposal to enhance nursing resources at Cloverhill Prison was approved between IPS management and staffing representatives. A prison nurse is responsible for maintaining a safe and clean clinical environment and will function as a primary health care provider. The role of nursing staff encompasses not only general nursing care but also other services such as counselling, health education and promotion, and preventative medicine. A prison nurse is required to maintain the highest standard of nursing care and participate in a multidisciplinary team, while also having regard to, and a clear understanding of, safe custody of an offender. In addition, the prison nurse helps to create and maintain a therapeutic environment within the prison as a whole and works with doctors, other nurses and prison staff as a professional member of a therapeutic team.

The Tánaiste reiterates that the review of nursing at Cloverhill Prison enhances resource allocation in that institution and is wholly appropriate in the context of demands in the prison during the night shift.

I am very disappointed, as nurses are going to be. The night shift is the most volatile shift and no other members of the multidisciplinary team are available. The onerous responsibility for providing the necessary care and the appropriate clinical environment falls on one nurse and it is too much. Not many nurses would apply for such posts, but I will bring back the Minister of State's response to the nursing members at Cloverhill Prison and we will engage with the unions to consider what further action should be taken. I am extremely disappointed, but I thank the Minister of State for his response.

Tenant Purchase Scheme

I wish to discuss the need for the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to amend the terms of qualification for the new tenant purchase scheme in order that people on social welfare are not excluded. It has been over two years since a tenant purchase scheme was brought back to local authorities to enable tenants to purchase their homes. I am very disappointed by this.

How can people apply? There are six conditions, but three are very serious and need to be addressed urgently. One must have an annual income of at least €15,000 and must not have bought a house under an earlier tenant purchase scheme, but there are special circumstances which should be addressed in the case of this latter condition. The last condition is that a tenant must have paid his or her water charges. I must express my disappointment at the fact that tenants on long-term social welfare are now excluded and not eligible to purchase their houses. Old age pensioners who have worked all their lives and received their redundancy payments are being told by the local authority that they cannot purchase their houses under the new tenant purchase scheme for 2016.

I know of a family which came into money and went to the local authority seeking to buy their house but were told they could not do so. If somebody wins money, is left money or gets redundancy, he or she cannot purchase the house, and that is absolutely unfair. The exclusion of Part V properties from the scheme may discriminate against tenants allocated such dwellings and this is discrimination against people on social welfare who want to buy their houses. The provision in Circular 44/2015 which excludes local authorities from completing the sale of properties to tenants with outstanding water charges is also unfair.

I ask the Minister to look at the new tenant purchase scheme. It has been two and a half years since there was a tenant purchase scheme in any local authority and now this scheme has been brought forward, but it takes us backwards instead of forwards. I welcome the scheme, but the three issues I have raised need to be urgently examined and changed.

I thank the Senator for raising the issue. I thought she wanted to concentrate on the exclusion of people on social welfare, but she raised other issues such as water charges and Part V properties, with which I will deal as far as I can. The new tenant (incremental) purchase scheme for existing local authority houses came into operation on 1 January 2016. It is not two years old but six months. It was long awaited and long needed-----

On a point of order, we have had no tenant purchase scheme in any local authority for nearly three years.

I agree that there was no scheme for a number of years, but the Senator said this scheme was two years old and I wanted to clarify that it was not. It is six months old. I spoke on this issue in the Dáil last week and agreed that we needed to review it but not six months into it. Our intention is to review it 12 months after it was brought into operation, which will be next January. The scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses available for sale under the scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum. They must have been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year and have been allocated a house under a local authority allocation scheme. Similarly to other incremental purchase model schemes currently operating, the scheme involves progressive discounts for purchasers linked to household income, ranging from 40% to 60% depending on income, with the housing authority placing an incremental charge on the house equivalent to the discount given and this will stay in place for 20, 25 or 30 years. The Senator knocks ut, but I think it is a very attractive scheme and there is a good offer in comparison to other schemes for those who fit the criteria. It is based on income, rather than the number of years a person has been in the house, but I agree that it is not a perfect scheme and that there are parts we need to change.

The minimum reckonable income for eligibility under the scheme is determined by the relevant housing authority in line with ministerial directions. It can include income from a number of different sources and classes such as from employment, private pensions and maintenance payments. The reckonable income can also include most social welfare payments, including pensions, where the social welfare payment is secondary to employment income. The Senator raised this issue and we need to look at it. If people are reliant on disability benefit or allowance they will be probably be reliant on it for the next few years and I have a difficulty with their being precluded from buying a house. We do need to look at the criteria to see if we can accommodate this and change it to allow for them to qualify, bearing in mind that a person who purchases a house has the responsibility for maintaining the house, insuring it and paying all the various charges, including water charges if they come back. There are costs after one buys a house and just because somebody has a windfall, it does not guarantee that he or she can run the house thereafter. That is an issue we must examine.

However, I accept the Senator's point. If someone wins a decent amount of money, he or she should be in a position to buy a house that has been the family home for a long time. That is something we should be able to allow for also. We will examine the matter. I have an open mind in terms of examining all the criteria and reviewing the position.

It is important to note that the income of all the tenants of the house, including adult children that are joint tenants, can be included, as can the income of the spouse, civil partner or other partner or cohabitant of a tenant who lives in the house with them.

It is essential that the income of an applicant under the scheme is of a long-term and sustainable nature, which goes back to the point I made. Having a lump sum of money is not always enough. That is necessary to ensure the tenant purchasing the house is in a financial position, as the owner, to maintain and insure the property for the duration of the charged period, in compliance with the conditions of the order transferring ownership of and responsibility for the house from the local authority to the tenant.

The new tenant (incremental) purchase scheme is in the early stages of implementation - the first six months - and my Department is monitoring the operation of the scheme in consultation with housing authorities. I gave a commitment to the Senator's colleague Deputy Barry Cowen and others during the Dáil debate that we will engage on the issue. We will talk to anyone who is interested. I am open to all ideas on criteria. We will analyse all the ideas with a view to making changes, if need be, from next year on.

In line with the commitment in A Programme for a Partnership Government, a review of the 2016 scheme will be undertaken following its first 12 months of operation. Changes to the terms and conditions of the scheme that are considered necessary will be introduced based on the evidence gathered at that stage. I hope that provides clarity on the issue for the Senator.

The matter of Part V properties was previously raised. There is a logic behind not allowing Part V houses to be sold. The aim of the scheme is to provide for a mix of housing in a given area and if we sell those houses, we lose the opportunity to have a social mix, which is the intention. The scheme is designed that way for a reason. If we sell all the houses built under Part V, the aims of the scheme could be compromised. There is logic behind the approach taken. I am happy to tease out the matter. I accept the reasoning behind the Senator's suggestion, but there is a logic to the approach being taken in not allowing Part V houses to be sold.

To clarify, the scheme was introduced in January and the local authority in Carlow only sent out the forms in March; therefore, in my eyes the period in question for the scheme to be examined was only three months. My point is that no scheme was in place for the previous two and a half years. We have a housing crisis. From what the Minister of State said, everything must be addressed, including the desire of people with disabilities and people on local authority waiting lists to buy their houses, but we must also make sure people are given the chance to get a home. More than 2,500 people are on the housing waiting list in the Carlow County Council area; therefore, it is important that housing is a priority issue and that people are given a home in which to live.

I totally agree with the Senator that housing should be a priority issue. We have said that very clearly in the debate in this House and in the Dáil. The Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, has said the number one priority for the Government is to tackle the housing problem. In the next couple of weeks we will roll out the action plan for housing, which will probably have a new title at that stage. The aim is to set out all the areas in which we believe we can make progress by removing barriers and fast-tracking development if need be, in order both to deliver more social houses and to increase the supply of private housing, because there is a problem in respect of both.

I was in Carlow last week turning the sod on a development. Carlow County Council has been proactive-----

-----and I believe it has a couple more projects in the pipeline also. The project on which I officiated involved ten houses and I believe three or four other projects are due to start this year also. The council there has been very proactive. I accept that there is a waiting list, but a plan is in place to address the issue and Carlow County Council is doing quite well in that regard. We will encourage all local authorities to do much more where they can. We must find them the resources to do so. We will need extra money, but we must also change the way we do business. First, we must increase the supply of social and affordable housing and we must also increase the supply of private housing because there is a shortage of houses across the board. Other areas on which we must focus include the provision of housing for people with disabilities, older people and those who wish to rent. We must increase the choice available across the board.

Part V has been mentioned a couple of times. It is important to analyse what is involved because there is a danger that we will erode the intention behind the measure if we allow people to sell on Part V houses.

Charities Regulation

In my home town of Athlone a Console centre was opened this year. The community in the midlands rallied and Console was very quickly inundated with people's generosity. Vast numbers of people in the midlands came on board; tradespeople and business people gave of their time, trade and money. Business people in the town and the wider area provided fixtures, fittings and furniture for the centre. At the time Paul Kelly said the community had really taken ownership of this project and thanks to their incredible efforts they were able to offer hope and help to people in the midlands who were struggling with mental health issues or suicide. The centre even included a Donal room for teenagers. Donal Walsh was a young boy who died from cancer and used the last months of his life to talk to people about the preciousness of life and appeal to young people not to take their own lives. His family helped to fund the Donal room in the Athlone centre. It was a significant achievement for them to do that in memory of their son.

When people are affected by the suicide of a loved one, they feel abandoned. They have many unanswered questions. For many, counselling is a lifeline. It offers a safe haven to try to make sense of life's rupture, a place to learn to trust again and perhaps a place of hope. The CEO of Console took that away. The goodwill of people was abused. He broke the trust of some of the most vulnerable people in Ireland. Some of the therapists who work in the centres have not been paid in more than two months but, because they recognise the supreme importance of the work they do, they have continued to work with their clients so as not to abandon them again or break their trust again and in order not to reawaken the trauma they have been through.

We must ask why this happened. The Console catastrophe points to a much deeper problem in the Government and society. We recognise a problem such as suicide when it is all too late, only to scatter money at a plethora of organisations that have already sprung up to stem the tide, which they do as best they can. The lack of vision, absence of strategic planning and unregulated spending breeds fly-by-night CEOs similar to what we have encountered in Console.

We need to pick up the pieces from that catastrophe. We have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable, not despite adversity but because of it. I urge the Minister of State to keep the counselling centres around the country, particularly in Athlone, open and to ensure continued funding of these vital services.

I thank the Senator for raising what is a very sad issue. As she said, services such as Console and many others that deal with suicide, bereavement or trauma are important to those who attend the services and those who work for them. When people avail of such services, it is often at a very difficult time, or even the lowest point, in their lives and it is traumatic for something like this to happen.

Funding for suicide prevention has increased significantly in recent years, from €3.7 million in 2010 to €11.5 million in 2016, including an additional €2.75 million which was provided in 2015 for extra resource officers for suicide prevention countrywide. The National Office for Suicide Prevention funds more than 40 individual organisations, including Console, and co-ordinates suicide prevention initiatives around the country. It also carries out research and training in this area. As the Senator outlined, Console provides counselling, therapy and support to people who have been bereaved by suicide. It also operates a national free 24/7 helpline and provides counselling and therapy at Console centres or outreach locations in several centres countrywide, of which Athlone is one location. In addition, Console provides child psychotherapy services for children and adolescents in suicidal crisis or who have been bereaved by suicide, collaborating closely with the HSE child and adolescent mental health services. All of Console's services are delivered by fully qualified and accredited counsellors, psychotherapists or psychologists who operate to strict procedural and ethical guidelines and under strict clinical supervision. Its counsellors and therapists are experienced in addressing trauma, loss, crisis intervention and complicated grief.

The HSE audit of Console was initiated in April 2015 by the National Office for Suicide Prevention following an examination of the 2013 returns from Console to the HSE which were received in late 2014. The HSE has confirmed that concerns arose in a number of areas, including the corporate governance and financial management of the agency.

It should be noted that the HSE has informed the Department of Health that it has not uncovered any issues with the standard of the services funded through the executive. As the Senator has pointed out, much of the work that went on in her office is completely separate to the issues that have arisen. The audit process has been concluded and an audit report has been sent to the HSE's mental health division. The Minister and I were briefed by the latter on 4 July 2016 in respect of the HSE's audit of Console. At this meeting, we both emphasised that the continuation of services was an overriding priority. We were informed that An Garda Síochána had been provided with a copy of the audit report and that the Committee of Public Accounts will also be provided with a copy ahead of its meeting on 15 July. The Minister updated the Cabinet on these developments on 5 July.

On 7 July, a series of meetings involving the HSE, the Department of Health, ministerial advisers, the charities regulator, service providers and the interim CEO of Console, Mr. David Hall, took place. The purpose of the meetings was to clarify the current position on Console and consider how arrangements could be put in place to ensure the seamless continuation of the three services funded by the HSE and currently provided by Console, namely, the 24/7 suicide helpline which is possibly the most critical, the suicide bereavement liaison service and the suicide bereavement counselling service. The Minister and I met Console's interim CEO on 8 July and a lot of work has since been done to ensure the services provided by Console will be continued. HSE management has assured the Department of Health that its first priority will be to ensure continuity of the various services provided by Console, having equal regard to the financial controls and the guidelines around the funding of agencies by the HSE.

What is really important is the phrase "seamless continuation of the three services" which the Minister of State used. I welcome this because that continuation needs to be seamless. What if these centres do not continue as they are? What will happen to them, who will own them and what will happen in the context of the work that has been done? Will people who give of their time, money and expertise not be discouraged from doing so because of the greed of people such as the former CEO of Console? When the Minister of State examines this matter, I urge her to look at these centres and the amount of money, time and general goodwill that has been invested in them and ensure that they are not just shut down. I also urge her to look at the number of groups that are looking after the same area. We need a more consolidated approach to this matter. It should not be a case of people just setting up different charities throughout the country, there is a need for the Government to adopt a national holistic approach.

The Senator will understand there are certain elements of this that I cannot discuss at present, but I hope we will have a resolution and that the details will become more public in the coming days and weeks. The priority has always been and should continue to be until we reach the end of this process ensuring the services remain in place, whether it be through a different organisation or the consolidation of some of them into other areas. It is also extremely important that there be continuous work with those who have provided the counselling service within Console and that they do not feel abandoned. A great deal of work has gone into ensuring they are engaged with and that they know what is happening throughout this process. Most importantly, in the aftermath of this saga we must ensure that the charities sector is properly regulated. During the debate in the Dáil last evening I very much welcomed the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality's move to commence section 4 of the Act. I welcome the additional funding that will allow these acts to take place with additional staff and funding. In particular, we need to look at section 38 and 39 agencies in order that a review is under way of the 40 charities currently funded under section 38. As over 2,000 charities are funded under section 39, there also needs to be a review in this regard. I thank the Senator for raising the issue.

Mental Health Services Provision

I thank the Minister of State for being here. I very much appreciate it in the light of her responsibility for mental health services. I know that it is an individual case and that people in her position do not like discussing such cases. However, this is a particular case and I am delighted to have the opportunity to raise it. It concerns Igor Baker, whose father is in the Visitors Gallery. We are talking about a young man who has been tragically let down by the State since he arrived in Ireland. He was misdiagnosed at the age of 13 years as having schizophrenia, but he never had the condition. This young man suffers from autism and has been residing at the Ashlin Centre in Beaumont Hospital since 30 September 2015. He has violent tendencies and his parents cannot care for him adequately in the family home. Beaumont Hospital realised this, as did every doctor who came into contact with the family. The Minister of State will know that sometimes one comes across these cases where a family is looking for a place. There is a residential unit somewhere and the family wants to either obtain a place or get onto the list for a place. We do our best in those individual circumstances. What strikes me about this case - this is the reason I am raising it - is that everybody involved accepts that this young man cannot live at home. His parents have done their best for him. The Ashlin Centre admitted this young man on 30 September 2015 and he still lives there voluntarily. If he were to walk out onto the street tomorrow morning, there is nothing the hospital or the centre could do to stop him.

There is a place for this young man at the newest centre in Kildare; therefore, the issue appears to be funding. That the State, through the Ashlin Centre, is keeping this young man does not make any sense. Why can this funding not be used to give him some chance in a much more appropriate setting at the newest centre? There seems to be a well meaning conspiracy of convenience. Everybody knows what needs to be done and that what this young man is going through is not appropriate for his needs. English is not his first language. He needs a sustainable, long-term care plan. I do not know how the other people who live at the newest centre got in there in the first instance. Obviously, they have situations that are similar to that of Igor Baker but funding was acquired to allow them to live at that centre. I cannot think of any case in my political career where everybody agrees what should happen but there seems to be a blockage somewhere. What is it that has permitted the State to allow Igor to remain in Beaumont Hospital, effectively on a day-to-day basis, since 30 September 2015, but that does not allow it to give him, his family and the people who love him the opportunity to access long-term care in a setting that is appropriate to his needs? Obviously, the answer is money but why are we spending so much money to keep him in Beaumont Hospital instead of giving him the chance he needs to live the life he deserves to live in this country surrounded by people who can care for him appropriately and satisfy his family that he is being cared for appropriately?

I know that departmental officials will say it is an individual case and that they do not like discussing such cases. However, I think the Minister of State will agree that this is a particularly unusual one. The Baker family are private people who do not necessarily want their private matters discussed on the airwaves. They appeared on the Claire Byrne show a number of months ago when the case was discussed. They do not necessarily want this case raised on the floor of the Seanad, the Dáil or anywhere else. They just want a solution. I appeal to the Minister of State to agree with me that what has been done with this young man is inappropriate and we need to find a more appropriate and sustainable solution for him and his family. I would be interested in hearing the Minister of State's thoughts.

I thank the Senator for raising this issue and welcome Mr. Baker to the Visitors Gallery.

One of the key aims of the Government is to provide services and supports for people with disabilities. The aim is to empower them to live their own lives, as the Senator rightly put it, and provide them with greater independence in order that they can access services, choose to live their lives how they want to and tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in A Programme for a Partnership Government which is guided by two principles, namely, equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life of people with disabilities. This is obviously where we want and aim to be. We are a long way off, but we must start somewhere.

Underlining the Government's commitment to the disability sector, my colleague, the Minister of State with special responsibility for disability issues, Deputy Finian McGrath, recently announced additional funding of €31 million for disability services, including services for people with autism, bringing the total allocation for disability services this year to €1.59 billion. As the Estimates were only voted on last week, we are still waiting to see where that funding will go.

Mr. Baker has a lengthy history of engagement with both child and adolescent and adult mental health services and the Senator might disagree, but I have been informed that he has received extensive input and support from the wider multidisciplinary team, which includes home care support, community mental health nurse input, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and social work services. In addition, Mr. Baker has been funded through the disability services for attendance on an outreach basis with the provider Gheel Autism Services which provides a varied range of services, including day and residential services. He has also been admitted to the north Dublin mental health services acute psychiatric unit, among various things that have happened.

As the Senator pointed out, it is the view of the clinicians involved in Mr. Baker's care that a placement with a private residential care provider, Nua Health Care services, Fethard, County Tipperary, is best placed to meet his needs. The HSE has been in ongoing communications with the family in regard to the funding arrangement for a private placement for Mr. Baker. While resources are not infinite in terms of the expenditure incurred in the provision of private placements, all cases are considered on an individual basis and prioritised based on overall clinical need and available financial resources. As the Senator pointed out, all the clinicians have established that the need is there but the finance is still a problem.

Dublin north city and county community health organisation is working proactively with HSE national mental health services to identify the funding arrangements required for this placement and will continue to keep the family informed. I stress that the idea is that we all live in a world where everybody has equal opportunity and should be able to avail of the services we need, irrespective of how much it costs. The Senator has hit the nail on the head: to be crude, it would probably cost much less for Mr. Baker to be in the service he needs to be in, given the amount being spent on where he is now, but the problem is with the fluidity of the funding we have within the Department of Health. There is no fluidity of funding between the different sections within the Department and that is something that needs a great deal of work. It requires a ten-year plan and is something we have started to put in place.

In the interim, I would be happy to meet the Senator and raise the issue with my colleague, the Minister of State with special responsibility for disability issues, Deputy Finian McGrath. That funding was only voted through in the Estimates last week and it will take time to see where exactly it is going to go, but if we can source funding somehow, I will certainly help in whatever way I can.

I appreciate the Minister of State's comments and her offer to meet me and hope the family also will be well received. I understand what she is saying in that the fact money has been spent in this area does not mean it can easily be shifted over but from her answer, she will certainly agree with me that everybody involved in this case agrees that where he is currently residing is not suitable for him. His family cannot care for him in the family home. He is a strong young man. He is 23 years of age and has a history of violent outbursts. His parents are at the end of their tether in this regard. Everybody agrees this is the case and I believe the Minister of State agrees with it too. I know that it is an individual case and the Minister of State cannot do this for everybody, but she will agree with me that this is a particularly unusual and deserving case. If she can find a mechanism for me, her and possibly the Minister of State with special responsibility for disability issues, Deputy Finian McGrath, to sit down with the family and go to the next stage, it would be greatly appreciated. The family would greatly appreciate her intervention.

Sitting suspended at 11.15 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.