The front page of the Irish Examiner this morning makes for very distressing reading for families of children and adults with disabilities and special needs. The chief executive of Cope Foundation, Mr. Seán Abbott, has said that the services and level of services are the worst he has seen in 38 years. He has said that adults with intellectual disabilities are essentially couch surfing between family members while waiting to access residential care at Cope Foundation. He said:
I have never seen anything like this... We always had the ability to say yes to people, now we spend all of our time saying no. We have to sit across the table from people and see the weariness in their eyes and say: "We can't help you, other than advocating for resources on your behalf".
There are 400 children at the Cope Foundation awaiting assessment for autism spectrum disorder. Of those who have been assessed, more than 1,350 children are awaiting specialist intervention. Some have been waiting years and will age out of ever getting seen. A total of 174 adults are on a residential waiting list, many of whom have no permanent home. A total of 649 adults have been identified as having "changing needs" and require further intervention and support while over 40% of the adults currently supported by the Cope Foundation are over the age of 45, which is becoming a significant issue with regard to parents over the ages of 70 or 80 having to cater for adults with special needs who urgently need residential accommodation. Cope Foundation has just 11 whole-time equivalent staff tackling the 1,350 cases on the specialist intervention waiting list and the 400 children awaiting assessment. Mr. Abbott said;
No matter how fast we do it, we will never clear it... It keeps growing... You get diagnosed and you wait for assessment. You get assessed and you wait for intervention.
No additional residential places or adult therapies have been funded.
Cope Foundation supports about 2,300 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. It is a well-known, well-respected and indeed historic service provider in the Cork region. Mr. Abbott is a reasonable man who has worked with Deputies from all parties. He is not given to a high public profile. The fact that he has issued these statements is a huge cry for help and a huge call to the Government to change direction. This is reflected nationally. The National Federation of Voluntary Bodies made a submission to the Oireachtas in June encapsulating of these issues.
Does the Taoiseach agree that this highlights that the Government lacks vision, commitment and above all, delivery for the disability sector? Does he accept that the Government has been in denial about the scale of the challenges facing many families of children and adults with special needs? These families are under enormous pressure fighting battles they cannot win. Will the Government look at the Revised Estimates with a view to increasing resources significantly for organisations like the Cope Foundation?