An “appalling neglect and a 'human rights violation” is how a leading Galway politician has described the lack of full-time day services for intellectually disabled school leavers.
Fine Gael Galway senator Fidelma Healy-Eames who is calling on An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to ensure places are made available for all intellectually disabled school leavers by the beginning of next week.
She said the west of Ireland is “disproportionately affected” compared with other areas of the State. She noted that the HSE West area has 77 young school leavers with only a partial service of approximately two days per week.
In Galway there are 13 school leavers needing places, five of these have profound needs with intellectual disabilities and challenging behaviour.
The senator has been in communication with the Department of Health and Public Expenditure on the issue and has been assured by junior minister Kathleen Lynch there will be a statement issued tomorrow.
However Sen Healy-Eames said the statement “must confirm that a full-time day service will be made available to all school leavers”.
“It is not right that every year the issue of funding for places for disabled young adults recurs,” she said. “No full-time day service being made available for school leavers with disabilities is an appalling violation of their human rights. This is disgraceful neglect by our state of our most vulnerable citizens.”
She has also lambasted the office of Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, which she accused of “blaming the Department of Health and disability organisations for ‘using’ disabled young people in a ‘cynical exercise’ to achieve extra budgets” in a separate communication.
The Galwaywoman said this is not the time for “a turf war or stand-off”.
As a result, she is calling on An Taoiseach to intervene to resolve this “internal Government issue” and ensure the “human rights of our disabled school leavers” are met.
Sen Healy-Eames says Government indecision and in-fighting is having a detrimental effect on school leavers and their families.
“Families are now at breaking point,” she said. “One family spoke to me about the toll it is taking on their health and that without intervention the parents too will shortly be calling on the services to support their own health.
“Another family has spoken about having to give up a family income so a parent could stay home to mind the school leaver. Loss of the income now means their mortgage will go into arrears.”
Sen Healy-Eames said the Government must “respond and provide this service as a matter of urgency”.
Labour Galway West TD Derek Nolan also spoke on the issue this week and said the only acceptable outcome for families of school leavers with severe disabilities is a full five day service.
“I am very angry and disappointed the issue remains unresolved despite repeated assurances from Government to the contrary,” he said. “This sorry saga has gone on too long, and the potential damage to these children is far too great.” Dep Nolan said he will continue to work with the families affected until the full service is achieved