Commencement Matters

Work Permits Eligibility

The Minister is more than welcome. My matter relates to the atypical work permits granted in the fishing industry and whether they may be extended for a longer period.

The more I researched the atypical work permit I found that it is an unusual work permit in many ways. We have ten different types work permits, one of which seems to be sitting in the Minister's Department. It is a bit of an outlier so I ask him to comment on how it has ended up in the Department. Nine are processed by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and one is dealt with by the Department of Justice and Equality. The Minister, therefore, might provide clarity on that issue because that would help me in the debate.

The atypical work permit is basically for crew in the fishing industry. This initiative was introduced in 2016 and it has been much welcomed by the fishing industry. As in many other industries, trying to attract labour has been an issue for the past decade. The atypical work permit has been a tool to bring in the foreign labour we require to ensure we have a viable fishing industry.

There are two major issues relating to the work permit. First, there is the duration. It is a 12-month work permit. Other work permits issued by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation are valid for two years and can then be extended for three years. This seems to be a 12-month work permit only, which is very tight, particularly in the context of forward planning for the fishing industry. The 12-month limitation on the contract needs to be examined. It could be more flexible and work better with the industry in order that the industry can move forward and make better plans for the future.

Second, the contract needs to be certified by a practising solicitor, which is also an unusual condition for a work permit. This does not apply to the other work permits issued by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. This is an exceptional expense for the industry. I have heard of charges of up to €3,000 being required for that contract to be certified so there is an issue around why we have this condition tied into it. That is not like the other work permits because they do not have that contract certification issue tied to them.

As much as I am looking for the permit to be extended, the contractual issues must be examined as well. The Minister is wiser than I am but is his Department the right place for this permit to be processed? Does this need to be examined? Does responsibility for the processing of this permit need to be transferred to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation? I went around the houses trying to get this matter taken because there is much uncertainty about where responsibility for this work permit sits.

I thank the Senator for raising this important issue. I regret it if he had some difficulty ascertaining within whose remit the issue lies. It is another example of the all-encompassing tentacles of the Department of Justice and Equality in the State.

First, a High Court case is pending so I am restricted in what I can say. It is now almost three years since the employment of non-EEA crew members in the Irish fishing fleet was highlighted. In November 2015, the Government established an interdepartmental task force, which was chaired by the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, with the objective of formulating a co-ordinated and effective cross-Government response to the issue. The culmination of this work was the development of a new scheme that involved putting in place detailed contracts between the vessel owners and the non-EEA nationals with a series of protections and a corresponding series of obligations contained therein. These include, for example, details of wage rates and the repatriation at the end of the contract period paid for by the vessel owner. It is only after this is in place that the matter of immigration permission arises to allow such workers to be legally resident in the State. This is facilitated by my Department through the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, which issues the atypical permission.

A memorandum of understanding for the monitoring and enforcement of the scheme was put in place between all the appropriate parties to ensure the various bodies with oversight of the sector were part of the solution. The scheme applies to crew members working on licensed and registered fishing vessels in the polyvalent, beamer and specific segments of the Irish fishing fleet for vessels more than 15 m in length overall. There is no time limit as to how long the scheme will last. The only condition relating to time is that the permission under the atypical work scheme for crew members must be applied for annually. Applicants to the scheme are required to have a contract of employment for a minimum term of 12 months. The permission under the scheme is granted in line with the duration of the contract.

Currently, there are no plans to extend the period for which atypical permission for a crew member may be granted. However, the atypical working scheme makes provision for both the renewal of a crew member's permission and the transfer of a crew member to an alternative employer within the industry as and when that might be required. As was noted by the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation in its report of November 2017, the scheme crosses a number of Departments and agencies. The role of my Department, through INIS, is to provide the appropriate immigration permission to the non-EEA nationals who have gone through the contract procedure, which is overseen by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and who have met the criteria to work as a non-EEA crew member in the State. As part of the atypical approval process, the person applying for the permission is required to present confirmation of compliance with the requirements from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the form of a unique identifier number issued by that Department and its central depository for contracts.

The Department of Justice and Equality is committed to publishing statistics on the number of permissions granted under the scheme on a half-yearly basis commencing in January next year. I can confirm that 29 new atypical permissions were granted and 107 permissions were renewed in 2017. Up to 31 October last, 44 new permissions were granted, 109 permissions were renewed and 12 permissions were granted for a change of employer.

The granting of an immigration permission follows from the contract put in place by the vessel owner and the non-EEA employee. Like all work permits issued in the State, the immigration permission follows in line with the terms and conditions of the particular contract. There are provisions in the scheme for new contracts to be put in place and for the transfer of contracts from one vessel owner to another should the case arise. It would not be possible to extend the immigration permission without first ensuring that there is a contract in place. The contract is specifically designed to protect the employee by clearly setting out the terms and conditions and the obligations of the vessel owners.

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply. The information provided is very helpful. The core issue I tried to articulate relates to a situation whereby a vessel owner might have an employment contract for 24 months, which is over 12 months, and whether the visa could follow that. The other issue is the legal cost attached, which does not pertain to other work permits. This is a grey area on which we might have to work. I accept that this matte relates to the Departments of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Justice and Equality. I am of the view that the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation should have responsibility for the permit but these are issues we will have to tease out over time.

The Senator makes an important point. While I do not have plans to extend the period for which the permission issues, I would be keen to have a proper and adequate flow of information for Senator Lombard, other Senators and the Cathaoirleach - having regard to his part of the country - in order that they do not experience the circumstances outlined, namely, not knowing who is dealing with a particular aspect of the scheme. I assure Senators of my assistance and support in that regard should the need arise.

The scheme is focused on ensuring that both the employment and human rights of migrant seafarers are fully protected and enforced to the highest degree through the combined work of all the appropriate agencies of the State. Different agencies and Departments have ongoing responsibility in this regard. It is the firm view of the oversight committee that if the scheme were to be suspended or abolished, non-EEA seafarers would be in a far more precarious situation. In such circumstances they would be open to a greater risk of exploitation. It would be remiss of me not to mention that a legal action is currently under way regarding the atypical scheme for crew members. The interdepartmental task force remains open to working with all the stakeholders to improve, develop and enhance the scheme where appropriate. My Department will continue to work with all the statutory agencies to ensure that those employed in the industry and their employers are in compliance with the regulations for employment in the fishing industry and with the general employment laws of the State.

Perhaps we should also reflect on the several non-EEA fishermen who were lost off Kinsale, Union Hall and Dunmore East. Nine or ten of them have come to harm in recent years. Fishing is a tough game. I thank the Minister and Senator Lombard for discussing this important matter.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting this matter. It is a particularly important matter for me. I also thank the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, for coming to the House to discuss it. The Minister of State will be familiar with Shanganagh Castle but I will clarify some matters for those who are not.

Shanganagh Castle and its surrounding land of 28 acres were sold by the Department of Justice and Equality when Senator McDowell was the Minister in that Department. The council purchased 21 acres for €9 million and a further 6.3 acres comprising the period house, which is a protected structure, and surrounding grounds. What has happened since 2002? We are experiencing a housing crisis, as the Minister of State knows better than most, yet there is an issue with Shanganagh Castle. I acknowledge the work of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county councillors who, on a cross-party basis, have worked well together despite a number of obstacles and frustrations to try to get this site up and running. We talk about Rebuilding Ireland and tackling affordable and social housing, yet there is frustration that this site is not coming on stream. The Minister and Minister of State are committed but somehow there is a blockage with this site.

It cannot be tolerated that we have such a blockage for an asset that is zoned and potentially ready for development, although I accept there are a number of infrastructural issues that need to be addressed. We have a housing crisis, nowhere more so than in Dún Laoghaire. There are thousands of people on social housing lists and while this applies to the whole country, it is particularly acute in an area where property prices are exorbitant - the highest in the country, as records will show.

I want to know who is funding this project and at what stage of development it is. Will this site be hived off to the Land Development Agency or any other agency? What is happening? The Minister of State and the Department owe it to the elected members to clarify what is going on. The Department owes it to the chief executive and the staff in the housing and planning departments of the council to explain what its plans are. It is getting harder to keep going back to people to say there is a delay with this massive site in Shanganagh, one of the finest sites for residential use in the country, as I believe the Minister of State will agree, having been there. When is it going to happen? What is the timeline for this to start? When will we see JCBs on the ground? What is the model that will be used and is the Department working with the council on this issue? How much will be social housing and how much affordable housing? All of those issues need to be addressed but there is a lack of clarity. I spoke to the elected members as recently as yesterday. There is absolute frustration as to what is going on between the executive, the elected members and the Department. All three need to come together to give greater clarity on how we can deliver much-needed affordable and social housing on this key site. I would appreciate a comprehensive overview of the timelines and funding commitments from the Minister of State.

I thank Senator Boyhan for raising the issue. It is a very important site. I got the guided tour from Councillor John Bailey and Deputy Maria Bailey over a year ago and I had a good look at it. I also met with council officials to look at various sites in the area. The Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has also visited the area.

We are very conscious of the importance of this area for delivering housing, whether social, affordable or private, in particular at this key site, which the State has invested in and which the local authority owns. It is important that we put it to good use. I am as eager as the Senator to see this and other prime local authority sites developed as quickly as possible. The Minister and I are determined to see the Shanganagh site deliver to its full potential and we would like that done as quickly as possible. It is a key housing authority asset that must be mobilised for the sustainable development not only of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown but of Dublin as a whole. We are all on the same page. I met elected representatives from different parties, who all see this as a valuable site. It is important we focus on its development.

While the development of any residential land in housing authority ownership is, in the first instance, a matter for the local authority concerned, including its elected members, we need to see new social and affordable homes realised from State housing land without delay, with particular emphasis on prioritising those sites with the greatest potential to deliver housing at scale in the short to medium term. Shanganagh is such a site and it can deliver the scale. While the Senator is right that there are infrastructural issues, it is my strong belief and that of the Department that infrastructural issues can be solved and addressed in parallel with the construction of houses. That is the way we have to approach these sites. It is very positive that the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council members have come together, on a cross-party basis, with a view to achieving the optimal housing outcome for this site, which can deliver over 500 new homes on a mixed-tenure basis.

The options for the delivery and financing of social housing are well established and understood at this stage. The Minister and I have made it clear that direct Exchequer funding is available for any social housing element of this mixed-tenure development. Again, we have been very clear with the councils and housing officials that the moneys are there, that we want a strong pipeline of projects and that we want delivery. Targets are set for each local authority and we are out there looking for a further pipeline of projects to be delivered this year, next year and the year after. We cannot be any clearer than that. The resources are there to make it happen across a range of mechanisms and schemes.

In terms of affordable housing, affordable purchase can be pursued in accordance with the provisions of Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which are now commenced. This is a suitable site for affordable housing. The scheme is well defined in the Act and this will be followed up with associated regulations and guidance in the weeks ahead.

With regard to affordable rental, the Minister is determined that cost rental will become a major part of our rental landscape in the future. It is clear there is a gap between social housing rental and the private rental market that needs to be filled. Cost rental can make a sustainable impact on housing affordability, competitiveness and the attractiveness of our main urban centres as places to live and work. Importantly, unlike affordable purchase, cost rental homes remain available in local authority ownership and can be allocated as affordable units in the long term. Furthermore, they also provide an income stream that can be re-invested in more affordable housing or land. Again, this is a suitable site for any of these options.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown is leading the way on cost rental, working with the Housing Agency and a number of approved housing bodies, which is welcome. I commend the council on the signing of agreements on the pilot project at Enniskerry Road. I understand the tenders were opened yesterday, so the development of that site is imminent. I am glad this is the case because there has been a focus on it for a while.

In order to support local authorities to get their sites ready for affordable housing, additional funding is being provided for enabling infrastructure via the serviced sites fund, for which €310 million has been allocated for the next couple of years. While the Shanganagh site was not included in the first call after the Minister in June asked local authorities to submit proposals under the serviced sites initiative, we expect it will feature in a future call, once the infrastructural masterplan is available. Again, I stress it is quite possible in today's world to develop infrastructure and housing at the same time, so they are both ready to be used at the same time.

Woodbrook-Shanganagh is also a designated major urban housing development site. In recognition of this, we have committed funding of just over €4 million under the local infrastructure housing activation fund to build public infrastructure which will open up the site for early development. In terms of moving this on, I understand a number of options have been examined. My Department is working with the council and the NDFA to compare the development approaches for the site - in fact, they are meeting again this afternoon - and a project board is in place to drive delivery. The Minister and I, no more than the Senator, want to ensure we make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to get the development right. There are a number of different housing types that can be used there and the sooner it happens, the better, as far as we are concerned.

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive response. The key question is when JCBs will be on this site. There is a suggestion there will be no development on this site until 2022, which is a long time away. This has to be a priority. I ask that the Minister of State would keep his eye on the ball, which I do not doubt he will. I will email this to the 40 members within minutes as I think it is that important. They are keen but there is a deficit of information. I acknowledge the excellent work of the Department, in particular Mary Hurley and her staff, who do an extraordinary job in very difficult circumstances. I ask the Minister of State to commit to keeping his eye on the ball and giving us some indication as to the progress with this job. Can he outline his understanding of when building will actually start on this site? Has he a date in mind or does he know the date we expect a JCB to go onto that site and start delivering affordable and social housing?

I thank the Senator for his focus on this site, and I thank the others involved as well. To be fair, it is an issue Deputy Bailey raises on a weekly basis with both our housing delivery team, under Mary Hurley's guidance, and our planning section. The two sections of the Department are very much focused on this site and I have had engagement there as well because we want to see it happen. I cannot give the Senator the exact date that a JCB will go onto that site. However, I see absolutely no reason it would possibly take until 2022. I have made it very clear on many occasions that infrastructural issues can be solved in parallel with the construction of houses on sites, and that is where we have to focus. This is a local authority controlled site and I cannot dictate the start date. All I can say is that we will fully support the local authority, whatever scheme it chooses to use. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has one project that we like and it is involved in many others as well. It is a pressure area and there are opportunities there. This is a key site and, as a Department, we are fully ready across a range of measures to make it happen, the sooner, the better.

I am sure Senator Boyhan will be back to the Minister of State if there are not diggers there by 1 June next year.

Next week, not next year.

Home Help Service Provision

I thank the Chair for selecting this matter. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Catherine Byrne.

Many people are affected by the issue I am raising, namely, the delay in providing home help or support services. It has been raised in the Dáil by various Deputies, including during a debate last night. If one looks at the backlog for the home support service, one will discover that 6,423 people are on the waiting list for increased or new hours. That is according to the information the HSE supplied to me last week. Included in that are 228 people on the waiting list in my county, Donegal. This is an excellent, cost-effective service and the delays are causing numerous difficulties for the families and individuals concerned, with domino effects for the Department and the HSE in the context of late discharges from acute hospitals because no home care is being provided. That has been highlighted by the National Health Service, NHS, in the UK, which commissioned a report on this issue and found that late discharges were giving rise to additional costs in the context of its acute hospital budget. The NHS implemented the recommendations in the report to which I refer and has saved €60 million in the past 12 months alone by allowing people to go home sooner because the relevant care was in place. The NHS's calculations were based on a £313 charge per day for acute hospitals. The same is evident here if we can allow people to go home and avail of home help care or home support.

I am aware that additional resources are being provided to this service. Over the past four to five years, additional resources have been provided. Clearly, however, these are not sufficient to meet demand. If this is such a cost-effective way of dealing with the health needs of elderly people over the age of 65, then the shortfall in resources needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. I have been informed by the HSE that it would cost €40 million this year to clear the backlog of 6,423 cases. I call on the Minister of State to make that money available to the HSE in order that it might clear the backlog before it increases. In County Donegal, the backlog has increased by 27% since May. That could increase again during the winter months and the situation could be much graver by February or March. I call on the Minister of State to provide the resources to reduce the backlog immediately and to put a better system in place to support home carers and those who provide care independently on behalf of the Department. I hope the matter relating to this excellent, cost-efficient service will be addressed as a matter of urgency.

I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, who cannot be here this morning. I acknowledge and welcome the debate in the Dáil last night. I was there for some of it. I know there was support from every corner of the Dáil. I do not know if the statement I am about to read will provide the Senator with additional information. I will read it in any event.

We all share the common objectives of improving quality of life for our older citizens. This Government continues to strive to ensure that initiatives are put in place to provide older people with the type of care they need and that such care is delivered in the right place and in a timely manner. The home support service is a core service for older people and is highly valued by service users, their families and the HSE. The service provides supports which assist older people to live independently in their own homes for longer. It enables large numbers of people to return home following acute hospital admission who otherwise would remain in hospital or would be admitted to long-stay residential care. This allows care to be provided in the community, which is a key principle of the vision of and implementation of Sláintecare. There has been sustained significant investment in these services in recent years. As a result, the home support budget has increased from a base of €306 million in 2015 to almost €420 million in 2018. Continued investment in home support is be a key consideration of the service planning process. Overall, the 2018 HSE national service plan provided over 17 million home support hours to be delivered to 50,500 people at any time. In addition, a further 156,000 hours, relating to adverse weather funding, were provided from spring 2018. Intensive home care packages will be delivered to approximately 235 people at any time and will deliver approximately a further 360,000 hours in the full year.

Despite this significant level of service provision, demand continues to rise. All those waiting are assessed and provided with a service, if appropriate, as soon as possible and having regard to their assessed needs. People being discharged from acute hospitals who are in a position to return home with supports are prioritised. At the end of September, preliminary figures indicate that there were 6,423 people approved for either new or additional home care supports who were waiting for funding to be available. The Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, has overseen investment in other areas of community supports such as in the availability of transitional beds aimed at reducing the need for older people to stay in hospital while awaiting long-term care packages such as home support or fair deal funding to be finalised. Transitional care also facilitates a cohort of patients who require further convalescence care but do not need to remain in acute hospitals. The number of approved transitional care beds has increased year on year and the availability of these beds is an important community-based support year-round, particularly during the winter. Following the recent budget announcement, the HSE and officials from the Department of Health are in the process of developing and agreeing the HSE national service plan 2019, which will set out, in detail, the type and quantum of services to be delivered in 2019 including services for older people.

The Senator's concerns included the 228 people in Donegal waiting to be assessed for or provided with a home care package. I will raise that with the Minister in question. We all want to make sure that older people and not-so-old people who would like to live in their communities get the care to be able to do so. The Minister is doing everything possible. With the continued development and agreement of the HSE national service plan for 2019, we hope that more funding will be made available. I will come back to the Senator after his next contribution.

I thank the Minister of State. The HSE has provided the cost to me. Some €40 million would clear the backlog. It is unfair that there is no backlog if one lives in Kerry, north Cork, south Cork, Carlow, Kilkenny, south Dublin or County Louth. If one lives in Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway or Cavan, there is a substantial waiting list. That is wrong. The HSE is a national organisation and should provide the same service to all. Investing in transitional care and other hospital facilities is much more costly. This is more cost-efficient and I would appreciate the Minister of State raising it. I know there are many competing demands but it makes economic and social care sense to deal with this.

The Minister of State has already committed to bring this back to the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly.

I welcome this debate, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly. Like Deputies in the Lower House last night, I welcome the provision of 550 additional home care support packages. These are really needed at this time and, in particular, as we come into the winter months. All of us with older parents or people who have certain requirements and need to be at home want to make sure that they get the best care, particularly in the communities in which they live. I am of the view that people want to stay in their communities. The Minister of State is very conscious of this. After I took last night's debate in the Dáil on his behalf, the Minister of State spoke to me about a vision for the future whereby people who cannot live at home will be able to stay in a managed environment - and have their own hall doors - or in retirement homes where their loved ones can visit and where there could be services nearby. The Minister of State is pursuing that option.

Services for People with Disabilities

In recent days we celebrated the 18th birthday of the iCARE organisation in the Inishowen Peninsula of Donegal. It provides precious support to more than 100 children and young people with autism and their families. It is a vital service, not just for the Inishowen Peninsula but further afield. For all of these 18 years it has kept the door open by relentless fundraising and has had tremendous support from the wider community. We are speaking about parents and carers who are tired and weary and who have been taken for granted for far too long by the State.

The HSE refers families and young people with intellectual disabilities to iCARE but until this year, when it provided some funding, it had not provided funding resources. Not so long ago in this Chamber I held up a map that showed where the funding went throughout the 26 counties of this State. Out of a large number of organisations, only one north of the famous Galway to Dublin line got funding. The Bluestack Special Needs Foundation, which is based in Donegal town, is fantastic. It, iCARE and Extern applied for funding and, yet again, were turned down. There was absolute outrage at this and it was clear there was discrimination against the people of Donegal. We all stood together and the HSE has finally given some funding to Bluestack Special Needs Foundation and iCARE this year.

What the families and carers in the Inishowen Peninsula and the rest of Donegal, iCARE and the Bluestack Special Needs Foundation need to know now is that there will be a service level agreement with the HSE with funding on an ongoing basis to take the pressure off them. I understand that following a meeting last Friday HSE management in the region, including Donegal, is recommending funding for the two organisations. The decision now lies with the senior management of the HSE, the Department of Health, the Minister of State with responsibility for disabilities and the Minister for Health. I am asking for confirmation that both organisations will have the funding they desperately need and the pressure will be taken off them. They cannot continue. Both organisations almost closed this year. That would have been a disaster for the families, children and young people with intellectual disabilities and other disabilities. We cannot have repeat of this in 2019. We need it dealt with once and for all. When we think that iCARE has waited 18 years and Bluestack Special Needs Foundation has waited 12 years, they have proven the need. They have worked tirelessly and now need State funding. I urge the Minister of State to give us good news today.

I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath. I acknowledge the Senator's comments and I agree with him about the many community organisations running services on the ground. Without constant fundraising by their members and extended families many organisations would have huge problems. I acknowledge this.

As the Senator is aware, iCARE provides a range of activities for children and young adults with autistic spectrum disorder in the Inishowen area. The organisation also provides support services for siblings and parents of children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. I also acknowledge Bluestack Special Needs Foundation's extraordinary achievements since it was established in 2006. The foundation operates a range of educational, practical and emotional support programmes using a family support model and provides evening and weekend activities as well as summer camps and a diverse range of activities. Through its funding activities, the foundation has made very significant donations to charities in the area over a number of years. The family-centred approach adopted by iCARE and Bluestack is an important move away from a system designed to suit the needs of the service provider and towards a system that is designed to meet needs of service users and their families. This model ensures that families are empowered by being supported and included in the planning of their children’s care.

While the HSE does not have a formal funding agreement in place with Bluestack Foundation, I understand it has, on occasion, received modest funding through the national lottery, including €3,000 in 2016 for the purchase of equipment and €5,000 towards the cost of summer camps in 2017. Following a request for urgent funding earlier this year, the HSE met representatives of Bluestack Special Needs Foundation and funding of €36,000 was awarded to assist the organisation.

I understand that both organisations have submitted current funding applications to the HSE. The HSE's national service planning process for 2019 is under way. Pending completion of this process it would not be appropriate for the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, to comment on specific funding requests at this time. We know that, sadly, there was a time when members of our society with disabilities, whether sensory, intellectual or physical, or indeed those with a learning difficulty, were excluded from many aspects of everyday life, and often, unfortunately, stereotyped due to ignorance, prejudice or misinformation. The success with which iCARE and Bluestack have integrated their services into the community goes an enormous way towards challenging this historic exclusion and is very much to be welcomed.

The Government remains 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. As part of this commitment a radical programme of reform of disability services is under way. This significant programme of reform is set out in policies such as Transforming Lives, Time to Move on from Congregated Settings and New Directions. Implementation of these policies will continue to have a practical and tangible impact on the lives of young people and their families.

Senator Mac Lochlainn may ask a brief supplementary question, bearing in mind that the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, is not the line Minister.

Absolutely, but I am mindful the Department officials are following the debate and they are the people who need to pay very close attention. There is much positive commentary about iCARE and Bluestack Special Needs Foundation and that is very welcome, particularly the model they use that integrates the young people, children and their families and works in partnership with the wider community. It is a fantastic groundbreaking model but the organisations are being taken for granted. This is the point. They do not need pats on the back. They do not commendation. They need money and resources. They need the ability to deliver these services on an ongoing basis.

There was absolute funding discrimination in the outrageous allocation earlier this year. It is shocking that an EU co-financed programme with millions of euro for disability support organisations throughout the State - a so-called national programme - included only one organisation north of the line from Galway to Dublin, with Donegal excluded. A very large geographic area was totally excluded from funding. On the back of the outrage from this, some funding was provided to both organisations. What we need now is for this to be formalised. We need a service level agreement for iCARE and Bluestack Special Needs Foundation and we need it confirmed this year. I am delighted the HSE in Donegal is backing us 100%. We need the Government to do the same and we need confirmation of this as soon as possible.

If confirmation is not given by the end of this year there will be absolute war from the people of Donegal. We will not accept these two organisations being left behind again. If the Government does not do what is right this time the people of Donegal will have a war with the decision-makers in Dublin.

I take on board the concerns and passion with which the Senator has spoken about the two services. I will bring back all of his issues. It is important we acknowledge organisations such as these and if that acknowledgement comes to me in a statement such as the one I have here, I must read it out and acknowledge the fact. It is not about just patting people on the back for the sake of it, it is about acknowledging sincerely the fact these two organisations do wonderful work.

I agree with the Senator that we need to put our money where our mouth is at times. These are two organisations about which he has spoken. I will convey his concerns to the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath. I will ask him, in the context of the HSE's national service plan, to consider the two organisations in a different light regarding the views of the Senator, and I am sure his views are shared by more people in Donegal. The two services provide important individual and family supports. I will convey the Senator's profoundly thoughtful concerns to the Minister of State.

Perhaps the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, might meet the Senator as well.

Sitting suspended at 11.20 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.