The North Cork based care provider for more than 1,400 adults and children with disabilities, St Joseph's Foundation, is working hard to re-open by the end of August to resume services which had to be closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the Charleville based care provider will not be able to bring back every body on a fulltime basis from the outset of the resumption of services and they are seeking additional Government support and new locations to support their service users.
Speaking to The Corkman newspaper this week following a meeting with Disability Minister Anne Rabbitte, St Josephs Foundation CEO Noreen Ryan and board chairman Eamon McCarthy, said the foundation had submitted a proposal to the HSE about what funding and other support would be required and were awaiting a response.
Based on the current level of funding, St Joseph's, which provides care services for in excess of 1,400 users from North Cork, Limerick and as far as the borders with Waterford and Kerry, would only be able to resume services at 40% capacity in order to comply with social distancing and other COVID protocols.
"We are re-opening in a manner to provide the safest possible service," said Noreen Ryan. "We will not be able to bring everybody on a fulltime basis, at least initially."
Both Eamon and Noreen acknowledged the great work done by the St Joseph's team in keeping COVID-19 out of their residential homes where they have up to 85 care users during the period since March when the Foundation had to close its doors to its many other users.
"This put a lot of stress on the care users themselves and on their families," Eamon said. "It's important to realise the closure didn't just impact on the care user alone but on their parents and siblings who care for them on an ongoing basis."
"There's a roadmap for schools re-opening and for hotels and other facilities but there's no roadmap or clear direction for the resumption of disability services," he said.
"Nobody expected the closure to be for so long," added Noreen.
"Simply put we need locations to accommodate our care users to be compliant with COVID-19 safety guidelines and to get new locations, we need funding.
"Our initial primary concern will be to ensure everyone's safety and to introduce our service users back into a new way of working
"Our main message is that we are advocating for the families and we are doing as much as we can remotely to support families with outreach services.
"We are aiming to open for day services in the last week in August, we have a plan where we can support everybody and have requested funding from the HSE.
"We're working very closely with the HSE but we await a response."
Under the plan for the resumption of services, St Joseph's Foundation are hoping to get new locations for their care provision services which would be closer to the users and their families so they can cut down on travel at least.
The two representatives from St Joseph's who spoke to The Corkman said they were delighted to meet the Disability Minister Anne Rabbitte and were encouraged by her support for their proposals.