The HSE, through its Occupational Guidance Service, works with schools, service providers, service users and families to identify the needs of young people with disabilities who are due to complete their second level education. The aim is to address the needs of individuals in the following ways, through:
- Health-funded rehabilitative or life-skills training;
- Health-funded day services;
- FÁS-funded vocational training, or;
- Extension to education placement for a specified time.
Vocational training which prepares people, including young people with disabilities, for employment in the open labour market is the responsibility of the Department of Education and Skills and FÁS. Rehabilitative training, which has no connection with the open labour market, is the responsibility of the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE). The purpose of rehabilitative training is to develop the individual’s life skills, social skills and basic work skills. Approximately 3,000 people with disabilities avail of rehabilitative training each year, some of whom then progress to vocational training, other training or employment. Some young people with disabilities, depending on their individual needs and abilities, require continuing supports from the HSE.
The HSE report New Directions: the report of the National Working Group for the Review of HSE-funded Adult Day Services , which was published in 2012, is guiding the reconfiguration and modernization of day services and will underpin the flexible and innovative approach required when addressing the future requirements of school leavers with disabilities who require continuing support. The New Directions report recommends the development of alternative models of day service based on the provision of individualised supports, rather than centre-based set programmes. The new model will enable young people with disabilities to lead self-directed lives through a range of personal supports.
A Working Group was established under the auspices of the National Consultative Forum to ensure the New Directions implementation plan is progressed through a collaborative approach. One of the work-packages currently being progressed by the Working Group is the development of draft standards for day services, in association with National Disability Authority. The draft standards will form part of a consultation process with service providers, service users and parents due to take place in September 2013. A revised Implementation Plan for New Directions will also form part of the consultation. Following the consultation process, the Interim Standards will be made available to service providers along with an audit tool. The Interim Standards are seen as essential in order to ensure a consistent and measurable approach to the reconfiguration and modernization of HSE-funded day services and supports.
The demand for services for young people with disabilities completing their education or life-skills training continues to grow. The HSE are currently finalising their figures for 2013 but expects that over 700 new places will be required. Service providers and the HSE are working closely together to identify how these needs can be met within available resources. This year, despite a 1.2% cut in the disability budget, an additional €4m has been ring-fenced in the HSE’s National Service Plan for new places. This funding is being allocated to each HSE Region based on its percentage of population. Both the voluntary sector and the HSE are committed to the best use of the available resources in a creative and flexible manner, so as to be as responsive as possible to the needs of this cohort.
I have asked to be kept informed of progress in finding appropriate training places and day services for this year's school-leavers on an ongoing basis and I have recently met with the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies and the HSE on this issue. I have also asked the HSE to ensure that a plan is put in place immediately to communicate with families and give them some certainty as to the placements or supports which will be available to their children in September.