Disability budget cuts pose 'real threat' to St Michael's House services
A €4m budget cut to the largest service provider for people with disabilities in the country has been branded a national scandal.
St Michael's House must slash 5.5% off its spending - while 240 desperate parents aged over 70 linger on a waiting list for urgent residential or respite care for their adult child.
Patricia Doherty, chief executive, warned the drop in funding from the Health Service Executive (HSE) will create a serious challenge for staff. More than 1,600 children and adults with an intellectual disability are cared for in its 170 day and residential centres across the Dublin area.
"Over the past three years St Michael's House's budget has been reduced by a total of €8.7m," Ms Doherty wrote in a letter to parents.
"While these cuts were extremely difficult to absorb we were, to the credit of all staff, able to manage them by working together to make service delivery more efficient and effective. A 5.5% cut presents a very real threat to the ability of St Michael's House to continue to maintain all current services and to respond to the increasing demands for services.
"I would be failing in my duty if I did not alert you to the seriousness of the situation and the scale of the challenge facing St Michael's House."
St Michael's House has the biggest waiting list for residential care in the country - including 150 families in crisis. About five new children a month are also joining day services.
Independent TD Finian McGrath slammed proposed cuts, claiming the Government blatantly lied to the public.
"It's an absolute disgrace. It's criminal, it's a scandal," he said. "The impact of this is that emergency respite and residential service have to close down or be dramatically cut back. Families who have an adult with a disability and whose parents could die are under major stress."
The HSE said that, as part of normal planning service activities, it is undertaking scenario planning with respect to disabilities services. A spokeswoman said: "The HSE is currently assessing the recent budget and its implications for health services delivery in 2012. The Service Plan for 2012 will be prepared over the coming weeks and submitted to the Minister for approval."