The Government has been called on to introduce a COVID-19 fund to support people with intellectual disabilities and their families as services reopen.
The call came from Inclusion Ireland, the national association that represents 66,000 people with intellectual disabilities. It met with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, on Wednesday to discuss the priority needs of those with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the organisation's CEO, Enda Egan, the closure of disability services in recent months has had a major impact on people with intellectual disabilities "in terms of greater anxiety, loneliness and behavioural difficulties during this period".
"A COVID-19 fund would help maximise service capacity for the return of people with intellectual disabilities to their services and support networks. This will re-engage people with their person-centred plans, facilitate their independence, and also will facilitate family members getting back to work and easing the pressure on the entire family unit," Mr Egan explained.
During the meeting, Minister Harris also clarified the figures related to people in disability services with COVID-19.
Prior to the meeting, Mr Egan had expressed concern about the accurate reporting of cases of the virus in residential disability services.
He noted that while the incidence rate of COVID-19 in long-term residential settings is 42 times higher than it is within the general population, it was not clear how these figures specifically applied to disability services.
However, Minister Harris provided specific figures in relation to this. He said that 650 people in disability services had been identified as having COVID-19 symptoms, and 430 of these had their diagnosis confirmed in a lab. However, 75% of disability services have had no outbreaks.
Among the cases, 57% were staff and 43% were residents, while a total of 14 people in disability services have died from the virus.
Meanwhile, Inclusion Ireland also called on the Department of Health to publish the Capacity Review into Disability Services at its earliest opportunity, as this would ensure that the next Government and the HSE have an accurate picture of what needs to be done to enable people to live independent lives and to achieve real reform of disability services.
For more information on Inclusion Ireland, click here.
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