Dáil Éireann - Volume 563 - 11 March, 2003

Written Answers - Services for People with Disabilities.

  451. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has plans to enhance the services for people with special needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7414/03]

  Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O'Malley): The overall economic position in 2003 has implications for all aspects of public investment, and this is reflected [308] in the Estimates and budget adopted by the Government for 2003. Within this overall framework, however, some two thirds of the additional funding available for non-capital investment in services has been allocated to the health services. This funding is being applied largely to maintaining existing levels of service across all service programmes including services for people with a disability.

  Significant additional funding in the region of €180 million has been provided by the Government since 1997 for physical and sensory disability services. This level of funding is indicative of the Government's ongoing commitment to the provision of quality services and includes €60 million ongoing funding for the development of services, including residential, respite, home support and personal assistance and therapy services.

  The Department, in conjunction with the Health Research Board, the health boards and the voluntary sector, is currently implementing a national physical and sensory disability database which will provide a picture of the specialised health and personal social service needs of people with a physical or sensory disability within a five year period. With the availability of information from both databases (i.e. the national intellectual disability database and the physical and sensory database) to facilitate planning and monitoring of services delivery, the Government can pursue its proven commitment to the ongoing development of these services.

  Between 1997 and 2002, additional revenue and capital funding of €327 million has been provided for intellectual disability and autism services. This has provided around 1,700 additional residential places which are mainly based in the community. This figure also includes new residential respite places developed in 1997 and 1998. Since 1998, approximately €14.6 million has been put into the system to enhance the early intervention, pre-school and multidisciplinary support services for children with an intellectual disability and those with autism. The Department has also provided additional funding of €11.43 million between 1999 and 2002, to enable health boards to put in place a range of support services for persons with an intellectual disability or autism who present major behavioural problems and, therefore, require a more intensive level of support.

  While it is regrettable that the level of investment achieved in these services in recent years could not be maintained in 2003, my Department will work closely with the health boards and other services providers in relation to service provision this year.