Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Mental Handicap Population Needs.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

1 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health the number of persons with a mental handicap who are waiting for (a) a residential place and (b) a place in day care centre; and if he will outline the acceptable waiting time for such persons.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

38 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health if he will outline in respect of the Eastern Health Board area on the latest date for which figures are available (a) the number of mentally handicapped people on the waiting list for residential placement and (b) the number of adults and children on the waiting list for day care placement; the steps he intends to take to reduce these lists in view of the hardship caused; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

51 Mr. S. Barrett asked the Minister for Health the way in which his £1 million allocation to the needs of persons with a mental handicap compares with the needs as outlined in the report of the Review Group on Mental Handicap Services.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1, 38 and 51 together.

The report of the Review Group on Mental Handicap Services — Needs and Abilities details the number of day and residential places required to meet the needs of the mental handicap population. The Government have accepted the recommendations of that report and are committed to their implementation.

The statistical information provided to my Department for 31 December 1990 indicates that the level of mental handicap services has increased by 17 per cent since the beginning of 1986. There are now over 11,500 people receiving services on a residential or day basis compared to 9,800 people on 31 December 1985.

In 1990 the Government provided a special allocation of £2 million for the development of mental handicap services. This enabled 149 residential places, 21 respite places catering for 200 people, 442 day places and 25 staff for other supports to be provided. Of this 91 residential and 184 day places were provided in the Eastern Health Board area. This year a further £1 million was provided to build on those developments. I have again ensured that the bulk of this money will benefit people in the Eastern Health Board region. The commissioning of places in Aras Attracta in County Mayo will free up 12 places in centres in the Eastern Health Board area. Twenty places will be commissioned in Cheeverstown House. In addition a sum of £230,000 has been provided for extra respite care in the eastern region.

I have already referred to the Government's commitment to the development of the mental handicap services. I have asked each health board to prepare a seven year plan for the development of mental handicap services. These plans will quantify the extent of unmet needs in each health board area. The provision of sufficient day care residential places for people with mental handicap is one of the priorities to be addressed in these plans.

The Minister did not stick to the question and as a result he used up much of our time. If the Minister accepted and committed himself to this plan will he explain why in years one and two of this plan for which a projected requirement of £28 million was indicated he has spent only £3 million, barely one tenth of what was required? Will the Minister agree that the provision of 47 residential places in 1991 as against their target of 190 is a very poor measure of commitment? Will he agree that that 47 means that it will take 20 years to deal with the 900 people now waiting for residential care for mentally handicapped people?

I do not agree with the Deputy. In reply to the Deputy's statement that I did not deal specifically with his question, I would point out that I said I was taking three questions together.

On the implementation of the recommendations of the report, "Needs and Abilities", they will be implemented as resources allow. We provided £2 million extra in 1990. That was repeated in 1991 and a further £1 million was provided. Since I became Minister the level of funding for those with a mental handicap has been protected. There was an increase of 40 per cent in the allocation between 1986 and 1991, which is well ahead of inflation.

Does the Minister realise that there is a crisis in the provision for mental handicap and that talk of protecting funding is beside the point. There was a need for £28 million and £3 million was provided. That is a fact. Does the Minister realise that an all-party committee of the House are seeking a serious commitment to spending in 1992?

Of course I accept the need. The Government accept the report——

There is a five year programme.

——which was commissioned by the Department. I accept there is need for more residential places. We have addressed that to some extent in the last two years and we will continue to do so as resources allow. The reviewed Programme for Government announced last week states specifically that within the scope of community based services it will be necessary to provide improved day care facilities for the elderly, for psychiatric patients and for those with a mental handicap and to expand the home support services. The commitment is there and——

The money is not.

——the Government will deliver on their commitment.