The HSE’s Report ‘Time to Move on from Congregated Settings’ was published in July 2011 and sets out a framework to guide the transfer of identified individuals from congregated settings to live in the community. It is currently estimated that 3,600 people still reside in these settings. The Report defined a congregated setting as a residential setting of ten or more people. The Report found that, not withstanding the commitment and initiative of dedicated staff and management, there were a significant number of people still experiencing institutional living conditions where they lacked basic privacy and dignity, living their lives apart from the community and families.
The HSE has established a National Implementation Group on Congregated Settings under its National Consultative Forum on Disabilities comprised of representatives from the HSE, disability umbrella groups and service user representative organisations. The Group is currently developing the high level implementation plan to be rolled out at regional and local level, in full consultation with the appropriate stakeholders. Implementation of the Report will pose significant challenges for many stakeholders, including clients, families, disability service providers, the HSE, various Government Departments and statutory bodies, and representative organisations. In the context of the Joint Housing Strategy for People with Disabilities; launched in October 2011, the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government have worked closely to identify sustainable funding resources to maintain progress on the transition programme. While the overall implementation of decongregation is expected to be cost neutral, and not withstanding the significant progress on funding overall, the Department of Health has agreed to transfer funding of €1 million to the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government in 2013, to support the commencement of the programme. This funding will be ring fenced to meet the social housing needs of people leaving institutions in 2013, enabling housing authorities to provide up to 150 new homes in the community. These units will be additional to the overall social housing supports which are expected to be delivered through all supply mechanisms in 2013.
It must also be acknowledged that the Report recognises a seven year time-frame for the implementation of its recommendations. The HSE has advised that this time frame should be treated with caution as there are a number of complexities involved due to multi dimensional elements of implementation including, individual choice of accommodation, living arrangements and location, funding, and the future role of staff, training and skill mix.