As the Deputy will be aware, accountability for the management of services is a matter for the HSE to address within the ambit of its Vote (Vote 39). The level of health services to be delivered within the available funding for 2013 has been set out in the HSE National Service Plan for 2013, which I approved in January. I have made enquires of the HSE in relation to the Deputy’s specific queries regarding the current expenditure on autism across the country. However, the HSE has advised it is not in a position to provide a breakdown of the funding currently being spent on autism services in Ireland. This is due to the manner in which funding is allocated between broad categories such as services for older people, primary care and disabilities in general. Disability services are provided based on the needs of the individual, rather than by the actual type of disability. The Executive also explained that people with autism may attend autism-specific services, or may obtain services from a service provider who provides services for a wide range of intellectual disabilities, including autism. The HSE will provide in the order of €1.5 billion in 2013 to fund health services for children and adults with disabilities, including autism. This represents approximately 11.5% of the €13.3billion health budget for 2013. It should also be noted that while the HSE provides a range of services to adults and children with disabilities, the majority of this funding is distributed through non-statutory agencies who deliver over 80% of all disability services.
The HSE National Review of Autism Services: Past, Present and Way Forward Report (2012) and the Progressing Disabilities Services for Children and Young People (0-18s) Programme set out the policy context for the provision of autism services to children and young people. The objective of the Progressing Disabilities Programme is to achieve a national, unified approach to delivering disability health services so that there is a clear pathway to the services for all children, regardless of where they live, what school they go to or the nature of their disability. This Programme aims to remedy the variations in service provision that currently persist around the country.
To assist in addressing some of these variations, I announced the allocation of €1m in funding for autism and early intervention services in 2012. Based on a report prepared by the HSE, I approved €300,000 of this funding, which equates to five therapists posts, for Beechpark services in Dublin, north of the Liffey, to address the pressing needs of its catchment area, with a particular emphasis on reducing waiting times. The report also proposed an allocation for Beechpark in the Dublin Mid-Leinster region which was to be rolled out in year two (i.e. Dublin south of the Liffey, Kildare and Wicklow).
I also established an Independent Review Group in 2012, to look at the Beechpark model of services and how resources could be used in the best and most effective way, in light of the HSE Review of Autism Services and the re-organisation of services underway in line with the 0-18's Programme. Further funding in relation to Beechpark and other regions of the country, was put on hold, pending the outcome of this Review. I understand that this Review is expected to be concluded shortly.
Following ongoing discussions on the best way forward in relation to Beechpark Autism Services, the HSE has confirmed that the funding approved will be allocated to HSE Dublin North East in 2013 for Beechpark in order to address the waiting list for services in Dublin North East. This will provide, in the first instance, for the recruitment of the necessary five therapy staff. I am very aware, however, that addressing the significant pressures in Dublin North East is only a starting point. The balance of funding for autism and early intervention services nationally will be made available. The issue of the allocation of these further resources will be required to be looked at, in light of the findings of the Independent Review.