Tuesday 28 March 2017

Cuts taking their toll on teens with intellectual disabilities

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

TEENAGERS with intellectual disabilities who finish their second-level education in the coming months fear they will be left at home "doing nothing" after the summer break because of training cutbacks.

Deirdre Carroll, chief executive of Inclusion Ireland, told a conference over the weekend that 15 years ago it was a scandal that school-leavers had no further training opportunities.

"We are in danger of returning to that," she said.

"Now, because of the uncertainty over funding, services are finding they are not able to give any commitments about day services or further training.

"We were given a pledge in the last Budget that €10m would be set aside for school-leavers and emergency placements. The problem is that the follow-up on that is being left to the last minute. Families still have no reassurance about what is happening.

Cruel

"It is cruel and unsettling for the young people themselves. They need clarity," she said.

Ms Carroll was speaking at the organisation's 50th anniversary conference in Galway.

Cora Howard, a parent from Dun Laoghaire in Dublin, told the conference there was a stark difference in the choices offered to her twins -- one of whom, Ruth, has Down syndrome.

"My twins will be 18 in July," she said.

"My daughter, Ruth, has no promise of further education, whereas her twin, Ben, only has to fill out his CAO form and pick what he wants to do.

"She could be doing life skills courses or other training. It's all about funding and staff. Why should she be treated as a second-class citizen?"

Jim Power, chief economist of Friends First, said the HSE was outsourcing €1.2bn worth of funding to non-profit organisations to provide services for people with a disability.

But the Comptroller and Auditor General has warned there needs to be more accountability and transparency from these organisations about how this money is being spent.

There needed to be stricter monitoring to ensure that the needs of the person with a disability, rather than staffing levels, were the key priority, he added.

"We will never hear again a Minister for Finance say in a Budget speech that if we have the money we will spend it," he said.

"On the one hand, as a economy, we are in deep crisis but it is often in these times we can reform how we do things."

Irish Independent

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