The recent NESC report: 'Quality and Standards in Human Services in Ireland: Disability Services' was very timely in that it followed the recent publication of the Value for Money and Policy Review (VFMPR) of Disability Services by my Department and was in advance of the current consultation being carried out by the Health Information and Quality Authority ( HIQA) on the revised draft standards, for residential services for both adults and children's disability services, which will allow for a robust registration and inspection system to be put in place by way of regulation by mid 2013.
One of the main challenges facing the disability sector identified by the report is that there has been little formal regulation in the sector, with no inspections or compulsory standards. As I have indicated previously, it is a priority for this Government to put the draft HIQA standards for the disability sector on a statutory footing and ensure that the services are registered and inspected by HIQA. These draft standards outline what is expected of a provider of services and what a person with a disability, his or her family, and the public can expect to receive from residential care services.
The draft standards document is currently the subject of a 5 week consultation process prior to being finalised and brought before the Board of HIQA. The final agreed standards will then be forwarded to my Department for approval with a likely publication date in January 2013. It is expected that the new regulatory system should be up and running by mid 2013. Work is also ongoing in my Department on both the 'Registration and Inspection' regulations and the 'Care and Welfare' regulations required to bring the standards into law. These are being developed taking into account the lessons learned from similar regulations for nursing homes.
In broader terms, the report echoes many of the findings of the VFMPR report and my Department in conjunction with the HSE, is currently developing an implementation framework for the recommendations in the VFMPR report which will be informed by the NESC report as appropriate. It is the intention that adherence to quality standards and a focus on personal outcomes, as underpinned by personal needs assessments, will be built into service provision as the recommendations in the review are implemented, so as to align disability service provision with Government policy, over time and within available resources.