Under Section 39 of the Health Act 2004, the HSE provides funding to bodies that deliver services similar, or ancillary to, services that the HSE may provide. These organisations provide a broad range of services and are governed by Service Level Agreements with the HSE.
There are approximately 2,200 Section 39 voluntary organisations and 150 of these receive funding from the HSE in excess of €1m per annum. A substantial number of these Section 39 voluntary organisations provide disability services.
Significant resources have been invested by the health sector in various services during the past number of years. Since our Government took office, the National Service Plan budget for social inclusion, mental health, disability services, and services for older people, has been increased by €747 million / 24%. This year alone, the Health Service Executive has allocated €3.9 billion to these programmes.
I understand that a number of service providers have highlighted their individual challenges, which include deficits accrued over many years. My Department and the HSE continue to put significant effort and resources into assisting service providers to manage priority needs within the funding available.
As Minister of Health, my primary concern is to ensure the continuity of appropriate person-centred services is maintained and delivered in an equitable manner consistent with the care and support needs of individuals.
Arising from the 2019 Report of the Independent Review Group established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in publicly funded health and personal services, I intend to establish a new dialogue forum between the Department, relevant health agencies and representation from voluntary organisations in the health and social care sector to provide a mechanism for engaging with the sector on the proposed Sláintecare reforms and other policy initiatives and to consider the group's recommendations on governance.
More broadly, I am continuing my examination of the recommendations of the report in the context of strengthening the relationship between the State and the voluntary organisations in the best interests of the service users. My focus will always be on the service users and their families.