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No recovery in the access to services for those with disabilities - Senator Reilly

11 February, 2016

Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly has criticised Fine Gael and Labour’s record in government of slashing supports for people with disabilities. She also highlighted the totally unacceptable lengths of time children have to wait for physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy in Cavan and Monaghan.

Speaking on the day of the launch of Sinn Féin’s policy document on Prioritising Disability Inclusion, Senator Reilly said:

“Fine Gael and Labour bandied about promises to prioritise disability services - but these have been badly broken. Instead of empowering and enabling all citizens to have a full and independent life, they have imposed cut after cut, with no plan to restore them. This flies in the face of a fair recovery.

“People with disabilities are one of the groups in our society most vulnerable to poverty and enforced deprivation. And this is a consequence of very deliberate actions by this government to dole out the worst of austerity measures on the most vulnerable.

“Bear in mind that this is a government that slashed the budget for disability services, closed the mobility allowance scheme, halved the housing adaptation grant, cut disability allowance while all the while our public services are being decimated.

“But there is another way. Sinn Féin has a vision for society in which all citizens can participate fully in life without being left behind. We will further the rights of people with disabilities, not diminish them.

Unacceptable waiting lists for children in Cavan/Monaghan

“My office is contacted weekly by parents of children who have great difficulty getting appointments from the HSE with regards to diagnostic assessments and therapies for their children. Access to therapies for children is severely restricted when we consider the waiting lists that currently exist. A cursory glance at the figures shows that children’s development is being hindered by excessive waiting times spanning well over 6 months.

“We must consider that many accessing these services are in their formative years. In Cavan, the waiting list for physiotherapy, occupational therapy and Speech and Language therapy appointments is 304 children, with 213 in Monaghan.

“€4 million for an additional 80 posts was provided under the HSE’s Progressing Disability Services for Children & Young People (0-18 years) in 2014, and a €6 million allocation was announced in 2015 for 120 new staff appointments. The level of funding provided by the government for these services is wholly inadequate, in many cases it has not even seen provision of these services return to 2009/10 levels. They are either deliberately oblivious or ignorant of Ireland’s demographic changes which mean that funding for these services need to be increased just to cope with additional demand.

“Previously in the Seanad, the Minister advised that there has been a 32% increase in referrals for children between 2010 and 2014 for the physiotherapy and occupational therapy service in Cavan/Monaghan. I am aware that in Cavan/Monaghan 2 additional posts, including 1 Speech and language Therapist and 1 Occupational Therapist have been filled. However, looking at the demand that exists in terms of the waiting lists, it is blatantly apparent that further positions are required.

“Sinn Féin’s aim would be to increase the number of SLTs by 250, OTs by 100, PTs by 100 and psychologists by 150 over our term in government, at an estimated cost of €30.725 million. This has been accounted for in our recently launched Health policy document “Better4Health”. This would benefit the children of Cavan and Monaghan, and their families, and help them access the services they need in a timely manner.”

List of measures below:
Increase disability allowance by €20 a week. 
Award an automatic medical card to every child in receipt of the Domiciliary Care Allowance and introduce a secure medical card for adults with disabilities. 
Expand the Personal Assistant Service (PA) service by increasing PA hours by an additional 500,0000 hours each year for three years. 
Increase respite care services by 20%
- Increase the budget allocation to disability services by €125.7 million. 
Provide additional places for people with disabilities on the Employability Service to allow an additional 1000 people with disabilities and 500 Momentum places for young recipients of Disability Allowance. 
- Increase resource teaching hours for children by 15% and provide 1,450 additional SNA’s to facilitate greater access for children with special needs. 
- Introduce a major infrastructure programme to make all public transport services fully wheelchair accessible, investing a total of €187 million.
- Charge an Taoiseach with responsibility for Disability Inclusion ensuring a named spokesperson will sit at the Cabinet table and is party to all decisions affecting people with disabilities. 
- Establish a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Disability Inclusion.

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