I thank Deputy Broughan for raising this important issue.
In line with Government policy, the HSE provides personal assistant, PA, services that are person-centred, equitable and transparent to people with a physical and-or sensory disability.
People with disabilities are now living longer and living with a range of complex needs. In line with national policy implemented under Transforming Lives, the focus in recent years has been to enable people with disabilities to live lives of their choosing. The provision of personal assistant hours is an essential component of this policy.
The HSE's National Service Plan 2019 commits to providing 1.63 million hours of personal assistance to 2,535 people with a disability, representing an increase of 170,000 hours over the 2018 target.
The HSE has consistently, year on year, increased the number of hours of PA service delivered, resulting in the overall number of personal assistance hours increasing by 26% between 2013 and 2018, an increase in real terms of 340,000 hours. Over the same period the number of people receiving PA services has increased by approximately 480 to 2,535.
The PA works on a one-to-one basis in the home and the community with a person with a physical or sensory disability. A vital element of this personalised support is the full involvement of the service user in planning and agreeing the type and the times when support is provided to them. Supporting independent living must enhance the person's control over his or her own life.
Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that disabled people should live where they wish and with whom they wish, should enjoy a range of community support services including personal assistance, should enjoy community life and its opportunities on an equal basis to non-disabled people and should not be subject to isolation or segregation. The PA service provided by the HSE adheres to these principles.
In the normal course of service delivery, an individual's requirements are constantly reviewed to ensure services meet changing need. An individual's personal assistant hours may be adjusted following a service review where demand can result in one individual's hours being reduced to address priority needs of other people with disabilities within that community.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
This much needed flexibility gives local community healthcare organisations the freedom to target personal assistant hours to maximum effect within their area.
Beyond the clear policy and operational arrangements which I have outlined and which facilitate the availability of appropriate and growing levels of personal assistant support, I have no plans for legislation governing the rights, entitlements and operations associated with this service.