Intellectual disabilities - needs not being met

Major underfunding affecting thousands
  • Deborah Condon

Some 30,000 people with intellectual disabilities, and their families, are facing "an unprecedented crisis", due to severe underfunding of services, it has been claimed.

According to the National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers (NFVSP), this underfunding is causing "a backlog of distressing unmet needs".

The NFVSP represents 59 voluntary and non-statutory disability service providers, who together support 30,000 people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Its chairperson, Sean Abbott, said there are currently people with intellectual disabilities who cannot access even basic supports.

"For instance, there are long waiting lists for children's services. The extent of the waiting lists means that some children with disabilities are even ageing out of early intervention, missing key milestones with no access to vital developmental supports.

"Additionally, adults who have an intellectual disability and need to move out of the family home have no system to access residential supports. Meanwhile more than 2,000 people remain living in institutions, with the pace of the move to community supports falling years behind schedule," Mr Abbott explained.

According to recent figures gathered by the NFVSP and its members, across 38 of its services, the lack of a system to access residential support means that at least 1,250 parents aged 70 and older continue to be the primary carer for their adult son/daughter with an intellectual disability living in the home.

Almost 400 of these carers are over 80 years of age.

"Compounding the unmet needs for these key supports, is a lack of access to essential respite, multidisciplinary supports and transport. Disability services have been left behind and forgotten," commented NFVSP board member and CEO of the Daughters of Charity Disability Support Services, Natalya Jackson.

The NFVSP is calling for greater investment in this area by the next government. It pointed out that the Oireachtas Disability Group and the Government's own figures indicate the need for an investment of €211 million per annum for five years to begin to address the rights and needs of people with disabilities.

"However, in a shocking development this January, disability services were informed of an additional €20 million cut to their already underfunded budgets. At the most basic level, this cut must be reversed to prevent the crisis deteriorating even further.

"Due to sustained cuts to disability funding, which have not been reversed, along with an increased population of people requiring supports, and higher costs of insurance and compliance, many of the services providing supports are carrying deficits and are at risk of no longer being able to continue," Mr Abbott said.

The NFVSP is calling for "increased and fair funding" to be provided to this sector urgently.

For more information on the NFVSP, click here.


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