Irish News

Friday 1 August 2014

Parents fear disabled teenagers will suffer as funding cuts bite

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Published 29/08/2013|04:00

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Seamus Neylon with his sister Cait

DESPERATE parents are pleading with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to release emergency funding to provide vital care which their intellectually disabled teenagers need.

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Scores of these young people, who left school in June, are in danger of losing communication and other skills because of cuts to disability services.

The funding cutbacks will leave them receiving day care for just one or two days a week.

The HSE only allocated €4m to meet the needs of these school leavers across the country this year, and disability groups were recently informed of further funding cuts backdated to July.

One of the affected youngsters is Seamus Neylon (18), from Mervue in Galway city, who has been attending special school since he was three years old. But his school education finished in June, and he is now faced with spending most of the week without a service because of cuts by the Brothers of Charity.

His mother Mary said he has been promised just two days of care a week – which she fears will condemn him again to a "world of fear and anxiety".

Mary, who is widowed, said: "Seamus has autism and is non verbal. His school day used to be highly structured and involved a lot of one-to-one instruction.

"But he learned to communicate by using pictures and Lamh sign language. Before this, he found it extremely difficult to communicate and engaged in very distressing, challenging and often self-injurious behaviour.

"It's wonderful now to see him so much calmer and happy. I thought he would get an adult day service from September.

"But he has none of the options open to him like his sister Cait, who is now in university.

"If he does not get the kind of service he needs, he will regress and that will lead to a return to challenging behaviour, which is an agonising and depressing thought."

There are around 830 intellectually disabled young people nationally who left school in June. Paddy Connolly of the support group Inclusion Ireland said: "This annual fiasco has occurred since 2008 and has to stop. It is placing parents under horrendous pressure."

The Brothers of Charity was unavailable for comment yesterday while another organisation, St Michael's House, based in Dublin, also refused to elaborate on a letter to parents saying it is having to impose cuts due to a €1m reduction in its budget.

RESPITE

It will have to close a residential and respite home, close down others for a day every month and take back allowances and subsidises for transport.

The service caters for 1,600 people with intellectual disabilities. Those in residential care are being forced to increase their rents from €90 to €125 a week.

The HSE did not respond to queries at the time of going to press.

Irish Independent

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