Services for People with Disabilities.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for giving me the opportunity to raise this matter. I welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber.

I raise once again the plight of school leavers with intellectual disability. The end of the school year is rapidly approaching. Additional moneys were allocated in budget 2008 to provide for those people with intellectual disability leaving school in June this year who require placement in HSE-funded services in September. Funding was specifically allocated to allow for the provision of those places but unfortunately, as of yet there does not appear to be confirmation to either the students or their families that those places will be funded in September. Considerable anxiety is being caused. That anxiety is heightened by the fact that as there has not been confirmation of the funding, it has not been possible for students to visit any of the proposed placements as those services are reluctant to raise expectations unless the funding is forthcoming.

I raise this matter on the Adjournment to seek confirmation from the Minister that approval has now been given to allocate part of that additional €50 million for disabilities to the provision of those places for school leavers, and that confirmation has been given to the services which will provide the places and to the students and their families, thus alleviating the need for a stressful and anxious summer.

I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney.

I am pleased to take this opportunity to address the important issues raised by the Senator. As she will be aware, a range of training, employment and day services are provided by the Health Service Executive, non-statutory agencies funded by the HSE and FÁS to young people with disabilities when they leave school.

The HSE employs guidance officers at local level to assist in the transition of young school leavers with disabilities to training and day services. The guidance officer works with the school leaver, their family, school authorities and service providers to ensure that individual school leavers with disabilities have access to appropriate services.

The national disability strategy is underpinned by the multi-annual investment programme. Significant additional funding has already been provided and has been spent on developing new and enhanced health and personal social services for people with a disability, including young people leaving school in the period 2006-07. These areas will continue to be the focus of developments for the remaining years of the multi-annual investment programme in 2008 and 2009.

For the information of the Senator, the Government has provided the HSE with an additional €75 million in both 2006 and 2007. This funding provided an extra 506 day places in 2006 and 492 day places in 2007. In addition, day services were enhanced with the provision of additional supports to deal with school leavers or other adults with significant disabilities, with 52 places in 2006 and 66 places in 2007. In some cases, the funding provided supported the school leavers to access appropriate day services, in line with a person-centred plan. In many cases, this funding provided places for individuals completing rehabilitative training, thereby creating training places for other school leavers.

Overall, the funding provided in recent years has contributed to an increase in services, ensuring that young people with intellectual disabilities have appropriate services in place to facilitate a smooth transition from secondary school. A further €50 million investment was announced in budget 2008. This funding includes funds for the provision of additional day places to address school leavers, people leaving training programmes, which will in turn create opportunities and places for school leavers, and improvements in existing day programmes, for example, where the needs of a person have changed.

I would also like to inform the House of some developments in areas related to the issues raised by Senator Corrigan. With regard to services for adults with disabilities, the HSE is in the process of undertaking a comprehensive national review of HSE-funded adult day services. This review will seek to advise on the reconfiguration and modernisation of existing adult day services to reflect the core principles of the health strategy. Those principles include access, quality, accountability and person-centredness and incorporate best practice, good value for money and better outcomes for service users. In addition they are in line with relevant legislation and national standards.

This process aims to produce a clear outline of a recommended service model that is reflective of the above principles. The review includes, as part of its work, examining and reviewing the range of day services such as activation, rehabilitative training and sheltered work.

To date, the strategic review of HSE-funded adult day services has consulted widely with service users, families and service providers and is about to engage in discussions with all parties to the sectoral plans, including the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Family and Social Affairs. A census of HSE-funded adult day services has been completed and the findings will help inform decision making in this process.

The Office for Disability and Mental Health was established by the Government in January this year. The office brings together responsibility for different policy areas and a range of services which impact on the lives of people with disabilities and those with mental health difficulties. The main focus of the office is to improve co-ordination and communication across Departments and agencies in the delivery of disability and mental health services.

My colleague, Deputy John Moloney, the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, has been appointed Minister with responsibility for equality, disability and mental health and his objective is to move the disability agenda to a level which compares with the best in the world. We will do so in partnership with all stakeholders.

Does the Senator have a supplementary question?

I thank the Minister of State for his response. Does it mean that school leavers in 2008 have received confirmation that they have placements in September? I appreciate that the Minister may not have that information available but perhaps he might clarify the matter at another date.

I thank the Senator for the supplementary question. A similar issue has come across my desk and I will endeavour to provide the information for the Senator when I get it.

The Seanad adjourned at 8.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 29 May 2008.