ADULTS with special needs in Kerry are facing a massive deterioration in the quality of their lives as the Kerry Parents' and Friends' Association (KPFA) budget for next year is being cut by €400,000 - five per cent of its €8 million annual budget.
Its members' lives will suffer immeasurably as residential and day centres will be forced to close for a day a week at least, activities will be cut and relief staff will lose jobs.
Heads of the charity say the cuts are going way too far and will roll the clock back on special needs services in Kerry by decades.
"Enough is enough," KPFA CEO Marie Linehan told The Kerryman. "This top slice goes against all reason as there are other areas under the HSE remit that could be targeted.
"They've taken enough away from us now and we have to call a halt to it."
The organisation is now facing a serious reduction in hours and will likely be forced to close its several residential and day-care centres (in Tralee, Killarney, Listowel, Rathmore, Castleisland, Valentia Island and Cahersiveen) at least one day a week.
The centres provide essential services to over 250 adults from Kerry with daily training and care, making a massive difference to the lives of members and their families.
"The cuts have already hit the quality of service and the variety of services on offer. We're going back now to the days when we had large numbers of adults under supervision rather than the quality one-to-one attention we had built up," Ms Linehan explained.
Families in north Kerry who have come to rely on the Listowel centre were in a state of 'panic' following a public meeting this week at which they learned of the swingeing cuts, according to one member.
One of the most important things about the service was its ability to provide people with the skills and personal outcomes they and their families expressly wanted. Now, that is all on the line.
"It's a curtailment of all that and it's turning the clock back on programmes developed with the individual's needs in mind," Ms Linehan added.
It is expected that relief staff positions will also be hit hard as a result of the cuts. The 150 wholetime equivalent, permanent staff are protected by the Croke Park Agreement, however.
"Why, in 2012, are parents now faced with the prospect of having to stand up and march again?" Ms Linehan asked.