Dáil Éireann - Volume 508 - 30 September, 1999

Written Answers. - Mental Handicap Services.

33. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps, if any, he is taking to provide additional residential and respite care places for those with mental handicaps; if he will introduce a charter of rights for those with mental handicaps and their families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18256/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): Since my appointment as Minister for Health and Children, and despite the many competing demands which are made on the resources available to my Department, I have consistently identified as one of my priorities the provision of additional residential, respite and day services for persons with an intellectual disability.

This year I was pleased to be in a position to provide additional funding of £1.2 million, with a full year cost of £18 million in 2000, for the further development of new services in line with the needs identified in the “Assessment of Need”. A sum of £10 million capital funding from the national capital programme has also been allocated to support the development of these new services, while £6 million has been provided to meet identified needs in existing services. This brings the total additional revenue funding provided in 1999 for the services to £18 million, with a full year cost of £24 million in 2000.

I am confident that within the context of the National Development Plan, and the Estimates for 2000 which are currently being finalised, I will be able to maintain and hopefully accelerate the pace of development and expansion of services. I intend to have discussions on this basis with the relevant interest groups involved over the coming weeks.

While there has quite rightly been a particular emphasis on the development of services to meet the needs of those awaiting placement in residential and day services, there is also a need to ensure that clients already in services receive an appropriate standard of care. While I have no plans at present to introduce a charter of rights as such, I am committed to the principles of equity, quality of services and accountability, and the concept of health and social gain which underpin [733] the health strategy as a whole, as well as to the development of services in accordance with the principles underpinning the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with a Disability.

There are many ways in which these principles can be actively encouraged and maintained, and which have my full support. Service agreements are being developed between voluntary agencies and the health boards for the provision of services to persons with an intellectual disability. These agreements will set out clearly the responsibilities of both parties and the principles which underpin those agreements, including the right to quality services.

My Department is also working to develop evaluation tools and mechanisms which will enable us to evaluate and monitor various aspects of the services, and in particular the outcome for clients availing of the services. This has already commenced in the area of residential care, through the research study which is currently being undertaken on behalf of my Department, by the Centre for Study of Developmental Disabilities. It is my intention to initiate the commissioning of research into other areas of the services and particularly the area of day services.

I was delighted earlier this year to launch the leaflet Standards of Care, produced by the National Association for the Mentally Handicapped of Ireland, which outlines standards which should apply to the whole range of services provided by voluntary and statutory agencies for persons with an intellectual disability. I am also aware of the initiative taken by the federation of voluntary bodies providing services to people with mental handicap to identify a number of mechanisms which would assist service providers to measure quality standards within their services. My Department and the National Association for the Mentally Handicapped of Ireland were involved in this initiative.