'White elephant': Autism centre still idle five years on

Sinead Kelleher

In April 2014 the Irish Society for Autism held an open day at their state-of-the-art residential centre in Dromavalla in Ballyseedy. Fast forward five years and the €1.3m building is empty - unused and unkempt and this is despite a host of fundraising by the people of Kerry to help build a much needed facility for adults with autism.

Jim and Patricia Adams helped spearhead the project in the hope that their son James would have some-where to live when they can no longer look after him.

That dream is now further away and they are not the only parents in Kerry disillusioned and disappointed by the lack of progress on this vital residential centre.

"It is a white elephant. There is furniture there and equipment and no-body has moved in there," says Jim.

"Five years ago we had an open day. It is shocking that it is just lying there."

For James and others like him a residential unit is vital.

"James cannot live independently, the only way forward is long-term residential care."

The Irish Society for Autism (ISA) own the building and it was constructed thanks to fundraising and a housing grant of €900,000. The Ring of Kerry also provided funding.

In recent months Inspired Well Being, a Northern Ireland Service Provider, had taken the first steps to run the facility but due to a lack of HSE funding they had to pull out of the project.

National Director for Inspired Well -being, Willie McAllister said that they had been in discussions with the HSE, the ISA and Kerry County Council. They and the tenants (adults with autism) would rent the building and HSE would pay care costs to them as a service provider.

The HSE however said that they have no funding in their budget to support the centre.

In a statement the HSE said that the building is not a HSE or a Cork Kerry Community Healthcare project and that the HSE have not committed funding to the project and have no funding. The ISA said they are invested in the building and are calling on the HSE to run it.

Kerry ETB visited the site on Thursday last to explore possibilities for the empty building.