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Disability Services Data

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 15 May 2019

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Questions (7)

Thomas Byrne


7. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health the number of young persons with disabilities in County Meath seeking post-school placements at the end of the academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20917/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Health)

My question is self-explanatory. It seeks to know the number of young people with disabilities in County Meath who are leaving school this year and will be waiting on placements which are generally organised through the HSE and Department of Health. The issue of Rehab comes into it because it offers placements in County Meath.

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. Day services and rehabilitative training programmes for young adults with disabilities who leave school in 2019 are currently being put in place. This is in line with new directions policy and the additional funding provided by the Government in budget 2019. A national school leaver process has been developed by the HSE over the past four years and funding has been allocated based on the outcomes from a standardised profiling process whereby the support needs of each individual referred are identified.

Governance of the profiling process is overseen by the National Disability Authority which does magnificent work for me, as Minister of State with responsibility for disability issues. At a national level, €12 million has been allocated for the provision of day services and rehabilitative training for young adults with disabilities in 2019. In that regard, 1,628 young people were profiled to determine their support needs and identified as requiring a day service in 2019, of which 1,206 placements require funding in 2019 and onwards. The remaining 422 of the overall 1,628 young people will enter vacancies created by rehabilitative training exits and other notified vacancies arising from people progressing onwards to mainstream or other services.

To date, 56 young people who have an address in County Meath have been referred to the HSE for a HSE-funded day service once they leave school in 2019. The HSE advises that 23 young people who left school in Meath in 2018 commenced funded adult day services and these service users are in receipt of the quantum of service they requested.

The big questions here are about those who fall through the cracks and, even on the Minister of State's own figures, not everybody is getting a place. The Minister of State, in fairness to him, has met one or two of my constituents who were stuck for a place. They should not be stuck. They are citizens of the country and should be provided with the services to which they are entitled under the HSE new directions policy.

It seems that every year, around this time, there is worry, anxiety and a fight to find placements. This is an annual thing for some families, and the Minister of State knows some of these people, because they have not yet been able to get a suitable placement. All the organisations do fantastic work but some young adults with severe intellectual disabilities find it much more difficult to get placements in my experience. Some of the organisations are not set up to accommodate, provide services and give a life outside of the home to young adults with severe intellectual disabilities and that is a real problem.

Rehab provides significant services in this regard and, if anything went wrong with that, as has been suggested by Rehab, this would only exacerbate the problem. These are young citizens of Ireland who are entitled to be facilitated to enable them to live their best possible lives and go on to pursue other opportunities.

I absolutely agree with the Deputy about the fear factor that many families have each year and I have met the constituents he is talking about. We have put a procedure in place to guarantee that every person who hits 18 in June will be guaranteed a place in September. The debate about people falling through the cracks has to do with issues about geographical areas and locations. It is a worry but the €12 million we will put into this in 2019 is to guarantee a place for every single young person with a disability. The Deputy is correct that those people should have such a place as a right under the UN Convention on Human Rights and that is my objective. The idea is to keep the parents of these young people informed and not to have this worry arising every May, June or July. The families should be getting letters, and some will have them already, from service providers at the moment to ensure that they are told where their young people are going in September.

I do not accept the point that it is acceptable to have any young person with a disability fall through the gaps. That is something I will fight strongly for and I will raise any particular issues the Deputy has.

I want the Minister of State to repeat that every young person who needs a place will have a place next September. Is that something that the Minister of State can absolutely guarantee?

I guarantee it. I have spent three years working on this. The first fire that I had to put out when I took over as Minister of State with responsibility for disability issues was school leavers. All the things the Deputy said were true and it was a nightmare. Families did not know, in May and June, where their 18 year old was going to go in September. The answer is that I can guarantee it. We have guaranteed the funding and resources so that every single school leaver will have a place in a day service in September. I ask the Deputy to come back to me immediately if there are any breaches of that.