Funding cuts for disability groups 'will bring an end to vital services'
UP to 25 disability and patient support organisations have warned they will be forced to cut back on services such as helplines because of a cut of €1.2m in funding.
Among those hit are the Irish Deaf Society which has had to close part of its its advocacy services; the Migraine Association, which risks losing a third of its staff; and the Huntingdon's Disease Association, which has been forced to end frontline services, including counselling and carer meetings.
Another organisation, Chronic Pain Ireland, said it will be forced to cease operations in less than 12 months as a result of the funding cut, according to John Dolan, head of the Disability Federation of Ireland.
Other support groups affected include those helping people with multiple sclerosis, brain conditions and Alzheimer's disease, it was claimed yesterday.
The cut was made through the Scheme to Support National Organisations in the Community and Voluntary Sector (SSNO) which is managed by the Department of the Environment and distributed through Pobal.
Mr Dolan said that while they were pleased that many organisations had received funding as part of the scheme, they were "gravely concerned" that the withdrawal of funding to 25 organisations will have a "devastating impact on the very fabric of community services for people with disabilities".
"The withdrawal of this funding represents another devastating blow for the sector and highlights, yet again, the lack of any meaningful understanding from Government of the challenges facing people with disabilities," he said.
He said that although some new disability organisations will acquire funding under the scheme, the vast majority of those previously supported have seen that backing rescinded, at a total loss of approximately €1.2m a year.
In response a spokesman for the Department of the Environment said the current funding scheme started in July 2011 and was due to expire in December 2013. It was extended to the end of June with a view to a new scheme starting from July 1.
A review was carried out last year and found the scheme fulfilled its main objective of providing multi-annual funding to national organisations towards core costs associated with the provision of services.
He said Pobal were asked to undertake an assessment of the applications received. A large number of groups sought the maximum level of funding or in some cases an amount in excess of the maximum available.