Dáil Éireann - Volume 481 - 08 October, 1997

Written Answers. - Centre for Independent Living.

117. Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Health and Children the recent steps, if any, which have been taken to advance the response to the application made by the Centre for Independent Living for an earmarked fund to meet its needs; if he and his Department will have discussions with FÁS in view of the special arrangements of personal assistants for such disabled people; if FÁS would consider allowing continuity of personal assistants into subsequent years and providing care beyond 19.5 hours per week; if he will meet a delegation representing the Centre for Independent Living; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15943/97]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): Personal assistance services are provided by the Irish Wheelchair Association, funded by the Eastern Health Board and by the Centre for Independent Living through the use of FÁS trainees under the community employment scheme. The FÁS scheme, which is designed to meet the needs of the long-term unemployed, is not perfectly suited to the needs of a personal assistance service for people with disabilities. However, any change in this scheme would be a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

[466] The Review Group on Health and Personal Social Services for People with Physical and Sensory Disabilities in its report, “Towards an Independent Future”, which was published last December, set out the requirements for the development, inter alia, of personal assistance services. On foot of the report, an additional £3.688 million was provided this year, of which £226,000 was allocated to personal assistance services. The further development of the services will be considered in the light of the resources which may be made available to my Department in 1998.

An advisory group on personal assistance services set up by one of my predecessors explored the option of establishing an independent living fund as a means of funding personal assistance services for people with disabilities but considered that it would be too cumbersome to administer. I met a delegation representing the Centre for Independent Living on 22 September last and discussed in detail the various issues in relation to personal assistance services.