I appreciate the Ceann Comhairle affording me the opportunity to raise this important matter. I am glad the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, is taking it. Unfortunately, existing respite services across Cavan and Monaghan for persons with disabilities - both children and adults - are totally inadequate. Not enough resources are being devoted to this critical area, which is extremely important for many individuals and their families. There are not enough centres or enough personnel working in the existing centres. The services are underfunded, under-resourced and the personnel in them are working under great pressure.
I know many people who have family members accessing those services. Even though they would be disappointed with the limited time they get the opportunity to leave a son, a daughter or a sibling in those centres, the message I have heard at all times emphasises the respect the families have for the facilities and the personnel working in the centres. One gentleman told me today that he and his wife have wonderful respect for the services and the personnel who deliver the services, when they are available. The gentleman in question is of pension age. He and his wife have an adult child with a disability. On a number of occasions, their proposed respite was cancelled. The same person had hospital appointments to coincide with the respite period that was proposed for their child. It is very difficult for families when respite care that is promised for a certain number of weeks or for a few days is cancelled. The family member, who is the carer at home 99% of the time, may have a hospital appointment away from Cavan or Monaghan, usually in Dublin. This creates serious problems and literally a crisis for such families when proposed respite is cancelled.
There are only three centres across Cavan and Monaghan delivering these services. One of those is the Annalee View respite care centre in Cootehill, County Cavan. Families who have loved ones who have gone there for respite have told me they very much appreciate the commitment, hard work and professionalism of the staff at the centre, but they are not able to access it as they should be able to do so. There have been cancellations. There is no provision in Cavan-Monaghan for managing a crisis. If a crisis arises for some families, that entails cancellations of services and respite for other people.
A gentleman read a letter to me earlier. He stated that, in 2005, I had been given a reply by the HSE in respect of a question on the need to improve services. He reminded me that the level of services available in 2005 was much better than at present. Even at that time, the Department of Health and the HSE recognised that there was an immediate need to improve and extend the level of services available. There is an urgent need to ensure that adequate resources are provided to ensure that there is an increase in personnel delivering those critical services and that there are also extensions to the existing centres or new centres developed.
I referred to the Annalee View respite care centre in Cootehill, which offers services for both adults and children. Some people have suggested that children and adult services should be separate. However, regardless of the architecture in the delivery of services, we need a proper levels of services to ensure that those people are given that respite when they need it.