Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Flood Relief Schemes Status

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this matter for discussion. The delay in progressing and delivering flood defence works in Crossmolina is unacceptable. People living in the town are frustrated, angry and afraid, there having almost been another flooding incident on the last weekend of August. The history of the problem long predates the Minister of State's time in office. I am sure he will tell me it is an environmental issue and that further investigation is needed. Does he not agree that the length of the delay and the manner in which the matter has been dealt with by the OPW and consultants is not acceptable? The Minister of State has visited Crossmolina and shown empathy with the people there. That gave them hope that he will cut through the red tape surrounding this project, which somebody needs to do.

When it comes to the OPW, it is a case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. It has taken no action other than the implementation of a minor pilot project which saw the installation of flood gates on some buildings. The flood defence works for Crossmolina come under the Government's capital investment programme for 2016 to 2021. Given that the money is there for the project, why has it not progressed? The town was flooded in 1989, 2006 and in November and December 2015. There was a serious danger of flooding on many other occasions. The flood gates have helped but their impact is limited. Now the people of Crossmolina are facing another winter afraid that the flooding will recur.

People are so upset about the delay in the works because they are in a situation where they cannot get insurance and cannot sell their properties. I know of a man who cannot sell his flood damaged home or get money to refurbish it and has now received a letter from the local authority notifying him that the property constitutes a derelict site. The proposal is to build a channel upstream between Nephin Mountain and the town, but that is not what was originally proposed. In 2012, the OPW had Ryan Hanley undertake an environmental impact assessment, EIA, which resulted in a scoping document being published in July 2014. The proposal was that walls would have to be constructed on either side of the river and the bridge would have to be raised somewhat. There followed the catastrophic flooding in the town in November and December 2015. We were then told that the walls could not be built because they would interfere with the integrity of the bridge. After going back to the drawing board, the bi-channel solution was brought forward.

At a meeting of the Joint Committee on Climate Action last October attended by the Commissioners of Public Works, including Mr. Maurice Buckley and Mr. John Sydenham, I asked for a commitment that we would not face into this coming winter without the works being done. They assured me that an environmental impact report had been completed in May 2018 and they expected construction to begin in the summer of this year. That has not happened. Why are the flood defence works in Crossmolina being repeatedly delayed because of environmental issues?

I thank the Senator for raising this matter. I welcome the opportunity to provide an update on the progress being made on the proposed flood relief scheme for Crossmolina. I would like to say at the outset that I fully appreciate the frustration of the local community and Senator Mulherin at the delays that have arisen on the project. I assure the Senator that these delays were due to legitimate technical issues that needed to be fully and properly examined.

The main outstanding technical issue relates to finalising the design for an additional in-stream flow-control structure. This is required in order to minimise the environmental impact of the diversion channel on the River Deel. The required assessment of the ecological and environmental constraints associated with the in-stream works that would be required for the proposed flow-control structure are now nearing completion, which will allow the detailed design of the project to be completed. The project team is ensuring that any tasks that can be progressed in parallel with the above environmental assessment are prioritised in order to minimise any programme delays. It is anticipated that the detailed design and preparation of the relevant documentation should be completed to allow the proposed scheme to be submitted to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for formal confirmation before the end of the year.

Following confirmation and tendering, it is anticipated that the scheme will progress to construction in the second half of 2020. Once the proposed scheme is confirmed, the OPW will contact landowners directly to provide information and advice prior to construction commencing.

As the Senator knows, I completely understand the stress that the threat of flooding causes. I am as anxious as anyone to ensure that the Crossmolina scheme is brought to construction stage and completed as quickly as possible. We must ensure, however, that we are delivering a scheme that adheres to all legislation, including Irish and European environmental legislation. As I am sure Senator Mulherin can appreciate, the delivery of a robust scheme that meets these standards and the needs of the local community is complex and cannot be rushed. Any breach of our obligations under Irish and European environmental legislation could halt the scheme and result in further delays.

The option of dredging in the River Deel has already been given serious consideration as a measure to alleviate flooding in Crossmolina. While various dredging options have been examined, it has been found that dredging on its own would not reduce flood levels sufficiently to prevent flooding of properties in the town. Dredging on the scale required to avoid flooding would also have a serious adverse impact on the Jack Garrett bridge and would be very difficult to justify on environmental grounds given the protected status of the river. The most feasible solution is to proceed with the planned channel diversion option.

As the Senator is aware, both the OPW and Mayo County Council, working in collaboration with the local flood action group, have been proactive in implementing interim flood protection measures in Crossmolina pending the construction of the permanent defences. These include individual property protection, IPP, and a number of minor works schemes. I am advised that floodgates have now been installed in more than 100 properties under the IPP scheme.

The OPW has demonstrated its commitment to providing whatever interim protection measures it can and I assure this House that the OPW will continue to work constructively with Mayo County Council and the local flood action group in this regard. As a person who has visited the town, Crossmolina is a priority for me. The Senator said at the outset that a great number of floods have taken place in the area over the years. Since I became responsible for the Office of Public Works, I have prioritised Crossmolina. I have been working with the Minister, Deputy Ring, other Deputies, and the Senator all that time. We went down there and displayed the scheme. It is a €10 million project. The flood scheme includes a diversion of 1.3 km. It is not simple mathematics. Sometimes in politics we listen to those on the outside, where everyone has the answers, but when we get into the detail to make sure that everything is correct, we must ensure that every scheme in which the OPW is involved leaves the place in a hell of a lot better condition than it was found. No scheme has ever breached. We have always worked in conjunction with the local authorities and local groups.

People in Crossmolina have been in contact with me. The Senator is right when she says that there was nearly flooding again a few weeks ago. I was on the phone to the Minister, Deputy Ring, and Deputy Calleary all night outlining the levels and heights. I apologise that I did not send the Senator a text in that regard. I feel the concern of those people just as I feel the Senator's concern today. I assure the Senator that I am doing everything I can.

That was a very solid response so the Senator should not take too long. I do not think there is too much more to say.

While I do not doubt the Minister of State's sincerity in this matter, I do not think this is acceptable. Even if it will only provide some relief, the river should be dredged. An environmental impact report was published in May 2018. There has been more environmental investigation since, including hydrological and geological investigation. A balance must be struck between the people on one side and habitats and wildlife on the other. The balance is not being struck. It will be of no comfort to people if their properties are flooded this winter. I ask the Minister of State to look at dredging again. It is not a total solution for the longer term; I accept that. I have spoken to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and it explained that it could be done in a sensitive way in light of the special area of conservation status and the presence of the freshwater pearl mussel in the river. I was told that this could all be accommodated but the OPW did not want to go for it. The OPW has not stepped up to the plate. It gave me commitments, which I presume it does not do lightly. It told me that the environmental work had been done and dusted by the end of May. It is now moving on to detailed design. It is going on and on. Will the OPW make up its mind? It has been going on way too long for the people of Crossmolina. It is totally unacceptable and unbelievable that people are being paid for doing this standard of a job.

I totally disagree with the Senator.

We have gone over time. The Minister of State was very detailed in his first response but I will allow him a supplementary response.

I want to respond. It is very unfair of the Senator to criticise my Department. We are working closely with the county council and all Members. It is easy to come in here and start roaring, shouting, and giving out. That might be a Facebook trend. I have put people first in everything I have ever done in this House and I will continue to do so. I have to adhere to the law and take cognisance of environmental studies. I was in Crossmolina in May publicising the scheme. It does not happen overnight. One cannot click one's fingers and make it happen. There is a process to which we must adhere. I am doing so, but I am going to deliver. Plenty of people have sat here, talked about Crossmolina, and done nothing. I am delivering. The Senator has to give us the extra time to make sure it happens. I do not want people's properties flooded. I never have and never will.

Water Quality

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach as ucht an deis a thabhairt dom labhairt ar chúrsaí uisce i gCuan na Gaillimhe. I dtosach báire, glacaim buíochas leis an Aire Stáit as teacht anseo. Tá dhá rud le rá sula dtosaím. Beidh deireadh seachtaine againn ar an gCeathrú Rua i gConamara do Theachtaí Dála, Seanadóirí, Airí agus gach duine eile faoi cheann coicíse nó trí seachtaine. I would love to see the Minister of State, the Cathaoirleach and everybody in both Houses there learning spoken Irish for the weekend. It will be good craic but I will give one warning: anyone who speaks a full sentence in English will be sent home. That stands for everybody. That is coming up soon. I hope everyone can make it.

Sea swimming is becoming more and more important as a sport. There are facilities for training throughout the country. It is essential that we have clean water for sports, food, and recreation. I come from Galway and the area of Galway Bay. An issue has come up on a number of occasions in Galway, which I will share with the Minister of State over the coming two to three minutes. I hope to get his feedback on it. The European Environment Agency and European Commission published a report on European bathing water quality in 2018. Some 71% of our bathing waters were deemed excellent, but this summer we saw many swimming bans, particularly in Dublin. Beaches were closed in Dublin. The most recent closure affected eight beaches. These beaches were closed to swimmers because of dirty water. I believe the cause of the Dublin beach closures was a number of sewage spills from the Ringsend treatment plant.

In May or June of this year Galway City Council prohibited swimming off beaches at Silverstrand and Salthill and issued a warning about the Grattan Road beach in lower Salthill after elevated levels of bacteria were detected. The most recent beach closure occurred from 28 August to 4 September, just a few weeks ago. No definite cause was outlined for the source of the elevated level of bacteria in our waters. We need to have confidence in the quality of our waters, especially from a health point of view. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, states in its 2018 report on bathing water quality in Ireland that ongoing research will help it to understand further how it can protect and improve bathing water quality. This is very much work in progress. We need to understand fully the source of the contamination in our water, which we currently do not.

I will pay particular attention to bathing waters in Galway as I ask the Minister of State a couple of questions. Every day, throughout the year, I see people swimming and diving off Blackrock in Salthill. It is a fantastic amenity. I know that the Minister, Deputy Murphy, spends time sea swimming himself. Perhaps the Minister of State does also, but I have seen some photos of the Minister doing so while I have not yet seen any of the Minister of State. I am sure he probably jumps in now and again, as do I. Given the number of cruise ships visiting Ireland in 2019, does the Minister of State know what volume of wastewater and sewage was discharged into Irish waters?

Who monitors cruise ships in Irish waters for compliance with environmental regulations? If we have an authority or a body doing that, what is the frequency and depth of this monitoring? Other countries have legislation in place requiring that cruise ships be routinely tested to meet clean air and water standards and a tax is levied on each cruise ship passenger to pay for the programme. Has a cruise ship operator ever been fined by Irish authorities for causing pollution?

I support and promote tourism but there is a balance to be struck. There is potentially a black hole or lack of clarity in this regard. Many people in Galway are concerned by the fact that the closure of Salthill beaches often coincides with the presence of cruise ships off Galway Bay. This issue was raised in Galway City Council a couple of times. Councillor John Connolly, who has highlighted it, is particularly concerned about the number of no-swim notices and advisory notices warning about water quality in the city. Councillor Donal Lyons has also raised the issue. This is a concern for people in Galway and I suggest it may also be an issue for people in Dublin who regularly swim in the sea. I would value the Minister's feedback on it.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir Ó Céidigh as ucht an t-ábhar seo a ardú inniu. I thank Senator Ó Céidigh for raising this issue today and giving me an opportunity to discuss the quality of our bathing water, specifically in Galway Bay. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, sends his apologies for not being here.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports on bathing water quality every year. In general, Ireland has high standards in this regard. Some 94% of our bathing waters meet the required standard and almost 86% are either good or excellent. High quality bathing waters are a fundamental natural amenity and I acknowledge the work of the many people who contribute to keep them at such a high standard. We must continue this good work to protect the water quality at our beaches. We must take action, where necessary, to put an end to any causes of pollution and ensure that people who swim have the information they need on water quality in their local area.

The bathing water regulations have resulted in more water quality testing and public information than was previously the case. The Minister has designated 145 bathing waters. Of these, five have been evaluated as poor, including three sites in Dublin Bay, one in Clifden, County Galway, and one on Lough Ennell in County Westmeath. The Minister remains concerned by ongoing issues at these five locations. While he recognises that the root causes may often be complex, the issues must be addressed as a matter of priority.

Focusing on County Galway and the beach at Clifden, Galway County Council has found there are a number of sources contributing to the water quality issues there, namely, the sewer network, septic tanks and storm water overflows from the wastewater treatment plant. Until recently, Clifden was discharging raw sewage. Irish Water has built a new sewage treatment plant at Clifden and is continuing with further works on the sewer network. This will improve water quality. Galway County Council is continuing to work to inspect and reduce the impact from householders' septic tank discharges.

In the Galway Bay area, specifically within the urban environs, the city council has issued prior warning notices ahead of heavy rainfall and posted temporary bathing prohibition notices. These notices are precautionary measures and are designed to protect people. Water quality is tested regularly at Galway Bay beaches and, in the main, is found to be excellent.

The local authorities in Galway are working closely with all stakeholders, including Irish Water, to ensure necessary improvements are delivered. In that context, it should be noted that Irish Water is preparing a drainage area plan for Galway city, which will help determine what upgrades are necessary to the sewer network. The Minister has asked the Department to work with the Environmental Protection Agency and the local authorities to examine ways of enhancing further the communication to bathers regarding potential water quality issues, including effective early warning systems in the event of weather alerts.

I have taken note of what the Senator has said with respect to discharges by cruise ships. I do not have any information to hand on that matter but I will ask the Minister to make inquiries and answer the queries the Senator has raised in that regard. I agree with his remarks on the importance of bays and waterways for sport and recreation purposes. As Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality with responsibility for youth justice, I encourage more people to use the waterways, beaches and sea for sailing, swimming and all other such recreation purposes.

I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive response which I very much appreciate, particularly the points he made regarding water quality. We are doing well but we could do much better. The Minister of State highlighted the work of Irish Water in Clifden. As he will be aware, I had a long engagement related to Irish Water a couple of years ago.

I would very much appreciate the Minister's feedback on the issue of cruise ships because it is a concern. From a recreational point of view, Ireland is becoming a more outdoor society, with rivers, lakes and the sea becoming more relevant to us. The environmental and health aspects are fundamental to this. However, this matter is also important from a tourism point of view because Ireland is seen as a green country in more ways than one. The more work we can do to maintain that, the better it will be for all of us. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire Stáit as ucht teacht isteach.

On the Senator's point regarding cruise ships, my guess is that the matter falls under the regulations and controls governing cruise ships. We will get the relevant information to the Senator.

Investment in wastewater infrastructure is prioritised in the Irish Water strategic funding plan, with capital expenditure on wastewater projects expected to be in the region of €1.9 billion between 2019 and 2024. These planned upgrades and improvements will make a significant contribution to improving water quality.

While local authorities are, where relevant, working closely with Irish Water to ensure infrastructural improvements are delivered, there are many other sources of pollution that are outside Irish Water's remit, including sewer misconnections to contributing streams, septic tanks, agriculture, wildlife and dog fouling. All of these issues must also be taken into account and addressed.

National Dementia Strategy

I understand the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, will take the next Commencement matter.

The Minister of State is otherwise engaged and sends his apologies. I will take this matter.

That is fine. At least we have a Minister here to answer.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, to the House. In case he is not aware, this is world dementia month during which we are trying to raise awareness of the number of people suffering from dementia and, unfortunately, the lack of supports for them in Ireland. There are currently 55,000 people diagnosed with dementia in Ireland and 4,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year. It is forecast that 115,000 people in Ireland will suffer from dementia in 2036. While we have had a national dementia strategy in place since 2014, little progress has been made other than in identifying the issues that need to be addressed. I have served on the all-party group on dementia in these Houses seeking a better service and more supports. Unfortunately, I feel that we have failed because we have seen no significant improvement for dementia sufferers, their families and carers over the past three years.

Dementia is an ignored condition. Those who have it and their families are ignored and care is very much a postcode lottery. There are nine dementia advisers serving 11 counties. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, represents Cork where there is one dementia adviser serving the whole county. The Minister of State will be aware of the distances that must be travelled in County Cork. He may have come across the dementia adviser service, which provides vital supports and also signposts for families the services they can knit into. In many cases, this enables families to keep a loved one at home for a much longer period.

The solution to the problem is not nursing home care. It is to try to keep family loved ones at home for as long as possible. I will not go into the financial impact of providing nursing home care for dementia sufferers but it is substantial.

On many occasions, that care can be provided at home but the people who provide it are not being supported. The Minister of State does not have responsibility for this area but I wish to express my deep disappointment on behalf of the all-party committee regarding the fact that there has been absolutely no progress over three years. On several occasions during that period, it has been flagged to members of the committee that we would see progress "this year" but, unfortunately, "this year" has never come. There has been increase in the number of dementia advisers and no targeted intervention in respect of home care packages. We asked for targeted packages for families who have children with Down's syndrome, particularly as 88% of these children develop dementia. It is with deep disappointment that I say that no progress has been made

I ask that the Minister of State take the message back to the Minister, Deputy Harris, and the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, that we expect progress in 2019. We do not expect everything in that one year but we expect an incremental increase in services provided to the more than 50,000 sufferers and their families, as well as a pathway to proper services for the projected 115,000 sufferers by 2036. The Department of Health and the Central Statistics Office, which is responsible for compiling the census, have flagged these numbers. We need to get ready and ensure that those sufferers will have access to a proper service and that their families and carers will be supported.

I thank Senator Humphreys for raising this matter and I acknowledge his sincerity and interest in the area, as well as the work he has done. The Minister of State, Deputy Daly, wanted to be here but he is currently before the select committee and sends his apologies.

As a response to the increasing number of people with dementia, the Government launched the Irish national dementia strategy in 2014. The Senator is correct that more and more people are presenting with dementia, possibly because people are living longer. The strategy seeks to enable people with dementia to maintain their identity, resilience and dignity by recognising that they remain valued, independent citizens who, along with their carers, have the right to be fully included as active citizens in society. The Understand Together campaign has raised public awareness of dementia and has promoted the inclusion and involvement in society of those with dementia. Some 459 people with dementia have benefited from dementia-specific intensive home care packages, while thousands more have availed of standard home support services. The HSE's national dementia office is working to implement the national dementia strategy and provides in the region of €12 million in annual funding to organisations delivering dementia-specific respite, home care, day care, cognitive stimulation therapy, social clubs and supports for family carers. The HSE also provides €400,000 per annum to support the dementia adviser service operated by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland.

A primary focus of the strategy is the improvement of community-based services for people with dementia and their families and carers. To this end, a number of key measures in the strategy are currently supported with dormant accounts funding, including: a national network of memory technology resource rooms; post-diagnostic supports; a dementia diagnostic service for people with intellectual disability; the national roll-out of a dementia training programme for HSE home care staff; the development of dementia resource centres; and community support projects for people with dementia.

The national dementia office and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland have collaborated on a project to map dementia-specific community-based services across the country. This project is one of a series of data collection measures by the national dementia office which aim to support the future development of services and supports for people with dementia. The national dementia office is also progressing initiatives to improve dementia care in acute hospitals. These include training in dementia and delirium care, the appointment of several clinical nurse specialists in dementia and the embedding of dementia and delirium pathways into existing services. These initiatives aim to enable healthcare professionals in acute settings understand the specific needs of people with dementia, while creating an environment that is less disorienting and stressful for people with dementia.

The level of funding available for the Department of Health in 2020 and the quantum of services to be provided by the HSE, including supports for people with dementia, will be considered as part of the Estimates and budgetary process and national service planning. As these deliberations are ongoing, the Minister is not in a position to outline plans for 2020 at this time.

I do not want to get angry. I had skin in the game because I saw my mother with dementia in the last years of her life. I have seen the real impact it has on families. The Minister says that, five years after the dementia strategy was launched, we are funding initiatives from dormant accounts funding but we need mainstream funding. It has to be planned and we cannot go, cap in hand, begging for funding every year. We need a planned, integrated approach in order to give dementia sufferers and their families the dignity of which the Minister spoke.

I am sorry the Minister is not here because we have had endless meetings with him on this. Dormant accounts funding does not allow us to plan a long-term service or to plan an integrated service for sufferers of dementia, their carers and their families. We - and I include myself in this - have failed people with dementia and their families. I will not stop raising this issue, inside and outside this House. Senator Kelleher and I will continue the battle and we will not let any Minister for Health, from any political party - including my own - allow what is happening to people with dementia, their carers and their families to continue. It is a national disgrace.

Unfortunately, it is also close to my door but I cannot comment from here.

I acknowledge what the Senator said and I believe all of us have experience of this. Good friends of mine are also affected and we all agree with what the Senator said. I commend him and encourage him to continue fighting. We will work with him on it. The national dementia strategy matches with much of what Sláintecare aims to deliver and has a strong emphasis on creating a whole-of-community response to dementia. Sláintecare seeks to steer the future direction of health provision and the Minister is pleased to say that the continued implementation of the national dementia strategy is included in the Sláintecare action plan for 2019. Dementia is not a simple health issue. It is also a social issue and involves everyone, from families and friends to business and the wider community. We all have a responsibility to remove the remaining stigma surrounding dementia and to create a society that embraces people with dementia. Individuals, businesses, organisations and communities have been encouraged to take steps to create welcoming and supportive communities for people with dementia and the Minister is heartened to see that more and more attention is being paid to dementia and the needs of people living with it.

The Government is providing a range of supports to promote the inclusion of people with dementia in our society. I appreciate that there are over 55,000 people in Ireland who are already living with dementia and that an average of 11 people develop dementia every day. As a result, there is a high demand for supports. The Minister of State, Deputy Daly, is committed to improving the range and quality of services available.

The Minister of State is not the line Minister for this issue and I am sure Senator Humphreys will find other methods of raising the issue in this Chamber from time to time. If I can, I will allow him to do so.

I will do that. I thank the Cathaoirleach.

Respite Care Services

I wish to raise a matter relating to Annalee Respite Care Centre in Cootehill, County Cavan. This time last year, Annalee Respite Care Centre was forced to close its doors because of an oil leak in the building. As a result, for 12 months there have been no respite facilities for families in Monaghan and Cavan. The situation is causing great hardship for many families in both counties. The issue shines a light on the chronic lack of childcare facilities available to families in Monaghan and Cavan and it highlights the chronic need for a separate facility for children.

Ideally, we should have a childcare facility for adults and a separate facility for children.

We all know that being a carer is a tough, 24-7 and 52 weeks of the year job. These people are totally dedicated to the people they look after and many times it is at the expense of their own health and well-being. Surely it is not too much to ask of society that these family carers are given a short break, a chance to carers to recharge their batteries and a bit of time to themselves. Families in counties Cavan and Monaghan deserve that right as much as those in any other part of the country.

As I said, the ordinary man on the street would find it difficult to understand why a simple oil leak in a building has not been rectified after 12 months. Why is it taking so long to put the building back into commission? Why have the carers in counties Cavan and Monaghan not been given an interim facility that would accommodate their needs? I am sure the Minister of State will agree that is simply not good enough. I am sure that if there was an oil leak in a business or in the Minister of State's family home that the premises would not be vacated for more than 12 months. Nobody should be. There are questions to be asked and I am hoping the Minister of State might answer some of them. When will Annalee View be up and running again? What is the story with the promised interim facility? When can the carers expect that facility to become available?

We all agree carers do an excellent job. The least we can do, as a society, is provide them with a short break away from their full-time roles.

I thank the Senator for raising this matter which I am taking on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, who, unfortunately, is unable to attend. If I do not have all the answers to the Senator's questions, I will ask the Minister of State to provide them directly to him.

This is a very important issue and I have been given the opportunity, on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, to outline the position in regard to the provision of respite services in counties Cavan and Monaghan. The Government's ongoing priority is the safeguarding of vulnerable people in the care of the health service. It is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities that will empower them to live independent lives. Respite services are an important part of the range of services that support people with disabilities and their families. As part of the ongoing service provision, this year the HSE will provide more than 182,500 respite nights and 32,662 day respite sessions to families in need across the country. The need for increased respite services is acknowledged and the HSE continues to work with all service providers to explore various ways of responding to this need in line with the budget available.

In 2018, there was a significant improvement in respite. An additional €10 million was provided to fund 12 new respite houses. That is one in each HSE community healthcare organisation, CHO, area, plus an additional three houses in the greater Dublin area to respond to the very high demand for respite from the area. All 12 houses are now fully providing additional respite for families in need.

With respect to respite services in counties Cavan and Monaghan, the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, has been informed by the HSE that respite services within Cavan-Monaghan disability services are currently provided as follows. The Annalee View respite centre caters for both adults and children with moderate to severe intellectual disability and associated medical conditions. It has the capacity to provide 910 adult respite beds per year. Unfortunately, due to an environmental issue at the centre, the HSE is unable to facilitate respite at this time. However, a new proposed property for respite in Cavan town has been identified. All documentation for the new proposed property for respite has been submitted to the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA. The HSE awaits confirmation of registration from HIQA.

Steadfast House respite centre in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, currently facilitates service users from Annalee View respite centre in Cootehill, County Cavan, during the closure and will provide overnight respite to individuals, as soon as possible. Steadfast House respite centre provides 840 respite bed nights per annum.

Cavan-Monaghan disability services currently offer a day service at the weekends for children and adults. Additional home support is available upon request and alternative respite is being explored.

St. Christopher's disability centre, Cavan, on average provides 730 adult respite beds per year. The Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, has been advised that operational capacity at St. Christopher's is operating as normal. He wants to assure the House that the Government is committed to providing a range of accessible respite care supports for people with a disability, and to supporting their families as best as possible.

I thank the Minister of State for his response and appreciate that this is not his brief. I am disappointed the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, is not here to address this issue but I understand he may have other commitments. I have two questions and I would appreciate if the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, would pass them on to the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath. On what date will Annalee View be operational again? It is imperative that we get that information and I ask that the matter is treated with more urgency. An interim facility was due to be commissioned. Due to the fact that Annalee View is not available, what is the current situation with the interim facility?

An additional separate respite service for children has been promised. The Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, indicated that he is looking into that. I ask for a progress report on that service. I would appreciate if greater urgency was attached to this issue than has been the case to date. It is the least the carers of counties Cavan and Monaghan deserve.

The Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, is very much aware of the importance of access to planned respite which ensures people with disabilities receive opportunities to socialise. It facilitates families to receive a break from caring, preserve the family unit and provide stability. Respite services are an important part of a range of services that support people with disabilities and their families, and is crucial in helping to reduce family stress. Short breaks can also provide an opportunity for individuals to meet new people, widen their social circle and gain new experiences.

The need for increased respite services is acknowledged and the HSE continues to work with all service providers to explore various ways of responding to this need in line with the budget available. The additional funding that was provided last year for alternative respite services continued in 2019 and remains a high priority for the HSE. Every effort is being made to support families as best as possible. Joint working is currently active between the Annalee View respite service and the second respite service for adults with an intellectual disability within counties Cavan and Monaghan. Steadfast House respite centre in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, will provide overnight respite to individuals, as soon as possible.

I will certainly pass on the Senator's queries to the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, and ask him to respond as soon as possible with answers.

I thank the Minister of State.

I thank the Minister of State and the Senator for their brevity. That concludes Commencement matters.

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