Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Questions (95, 96, 97)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

194 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to provide 600 additional respite places over a three year period for children and adults with an intellectual disability and to have a specified number of these places reserved for children and adults with more significant disabilities and challenging behaviour; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25577/04]

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Brian O'Shea

Question:

195 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is her intention to provide at least €80 million in revenue and €40 million in capital in 2005 in order for a three year investment programme to provide 600 additional residential respite places for persons with an intellectual disability; if a similar level of resources will be provided for the following two years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25578/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 and 195 together.

The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot at this stage give specific commitments in relation to levels of expenditure in 2005. As part of the national strategy on disability, the Government recently announced a multi-annual investment programme which is being considered in the course of the current Estimate and budget discussions with the Department of Finance.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

196 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to recommendation 626 of the report of the commission on the status of people with disabilities 1996, her proposals for the introduction of a variable cost of disability payment which is based on the needs of the person with the disability in recognition of the extra costs associated with their disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25584/04]

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Under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, an inter-departmental working group, chaired by the Department of Health and Children, was established to examine the feasibility of introducing a cost of disability payment — PPF3.10.11.

The National Disability Authority, on behalf of the working group, and in line with its own remit, commissioned research into the feasibility of a cost of disability payment in Ireland. The purpose of this research was to advise regarding: the additional costs incurred by people with disabilities, owing specifically to the direct or indirect costs of the disability; and the appropriate mechanisms, or instruments by which to address identified additional costs.

The resultant report, Disability and the Cost of Living, was published by the NDA early in 2004. The working group in March of this year produced a position paper, which gave an overview of the work it has undertaken to date. It outlined the group's current thinking and also gave an indication of the next steps the working group intends to take.

The working group recommends that urgent steps be taken to improve the quality of data relating to disability in Ireland. This might include, for example, adjustment of existing data gathering exercises undertaken by the Central Statistics Office or other relevant bodies to include questions on the numbers per household with disabilities, the nature of the disability, severity of impairment, etc. The working group considers that it is vital that comprehensive data is available on which to base consideration of the feasibility of a cost of disability payment. Given its advisory and research remit, the working group considers that the National Disability Authority has an important role to play in addressing these data gaps along with other relevant bodies.

The working group acknowledges that a number of Departments and agencies have previously carried out reviews of the various supports-payments for people with disabilities. However, these reviews have tended to focus solely on the operation of individual schemes, without taking a broader overview of how these measures fit into the overall system of disability supports. The working group proposes to examine the scope for rationalising and streamlining the various disability supports measures, with a particular focus on mitigating the additional costs of disability for a greater number of people with disabilities, particularly in the case of those who wish to move from a position of total welfare dependence to one of greater economic independence. The working group is now proceeding to follow up on these various matters.