Disability service organisations warn health committee of crisis in sector, with deficits of €30m threatening future of services for over 40,000 adults and children with disabilities

Representatives of organisations providing disability services to over 40,000 adults and children across the country have this morning (Wednesday 19th June 2019) told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health that they are carrying a combined deficit of €30m, and that the funding crisis in the sector has now reached a critical point, threatening the immediate future of the services they provide.

Some organisations are being loaned short term funding by the HSE, to keep services open, so serious is their funding crisis.

If these deficits are not addressed, Boards of these organisations will be forced under company law to close, according to the Chairperson of the 57-member National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers.

Only last month the Board of RehabCare, the largest independent voluntary service provider for people with disabilities, told the Minister for Health that unless additional funding of €2m was provided, they would give notice of termination of services to 3000 people using their services. The notice was only withdrawn when the Minister agreed to provide the funding.

The National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers, which provides intellectual disability services to 25,000 adults and children, were joined by the Not for Profit Association which jointly delivers disability services to 30,000 people across the country, and the Rehab Group, to call for a resolution of the deficits and to guarantee the financial sustainability of the sector for the future.

The organisations all report that the underfunding of the sector since the recession, combined with the cost of HIQA regulations, meeting the changing needs of people using the services, and increased insurance premiums, has resulted in their members facing growing deficits.

Rosemary Keogh, Chairperson of the Not for Profit Association, Mo Flynn, CEO of the Rehab Group and Bernard O’Regan, Chairperson of the National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers, told the members of the Health Committee that the future of the services they provide depends on the financial sustainability of their member organisations.

HSE refuses to record deficits.

Mo Flynn of the Rehab Group told the Committee of the findings of an independent research report commissioned by the Rehab Group which found that the HSE is refusing to record deficits in funding contracts, and that many organisations are caught between their obligations under company law to be transparent, and their commitment to the people using their services.

Like RehabCare, many organisations are now having to decide how long they can continue to operate, while carrying deficits, and stay within the law,

she said.

The current crisis calls into question the value the State now places on the sector, and more importantly, how the state prioritises the rights of people who depend on the services the sector provides,

said Ms Keogh.

Bernard O’Regan, Chairperson of the 57-member National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers, said that

thousands of people with an intellectual disability are not being supported to live a life of their choosing, or to maximise their potential and live as independently as possible, as contributing active citizens.