Address by Tim O’Malley TD to the Irish Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus AGM

Castletroy Park Hotel, Limerick, Saturday 14th May 2005

Chairman, distinguished guests, members of the Irish Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here, today, to open this Conference. I would like to thank Nick Killian, your Chief Executive Officer for his kind invitation to be here today.

Throughout their lives, each and every person in Ireland is affected either directly or indirectly by disabling conditions of some nature or other. Such conditions present those affected with numerous questions, emotions and challenges. This requires the development and delivery of a combination of solutions to assist those affected to best overcome these experiences.

Research, care and support are essential to enable people with such conditions to achieve their maximum potential in life. The support services being provided by the Irish Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, play a pivotal role in achieving this goal.

The availability of accurate and adequate information is essential to people with disabilities, their families and friends, to provide answers to their many questions. It is also vital that a high level of public awareness is maintained to enable people with all forms of disabilities to gain the respect that they deserve, as valued members of our community.

I would like to point out that there have been a number of key developments in the provision of health services to people with disabilities over the last number of years in relation to the enhancement of services and the development of new services to meet identified needs.

Each health board has a regional co-ordinating committee which is representative of the health board, the non-statutory sector and the service user and is part of the partnership process in the planning and delivery of health related supports and personal social services to people with physical and sensory disabilities.

Partnership cannot be confined to a relationship between the statutory and non-statutory sector. The development of services for people with physical and sensory disabilities is a complex issue as there is such a wide range and variety of disabilities included in this category. To meet the needs of people with physical and sensory disabilities a wide range of interlocking and complementary services is often required. This combination of services can only be achieved when everyone involved in the delivery of services actively works together in partnership.

The National Disability Strategy is an opportunity to identify priorities in the services for people with disabilities. It is a framework of positive action measures to support participation by people with disabilities in Irish society. The Strategy consists of four elements:
• Disability Bill 2004
• Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004
• Six Outline Sectoral Plans, and
• A commitment to a multi-annual Investment Programme for disability support services.

My Department has recently published an Outline Sectoral Plan in respect of the specific health and personal social services provided for people with disabilities. This is very much an interim plan, designed to encompass a programme of work which is to be undertaken over the next 12 to 18 months. The main aspects of this programme are related to the provisions contained in the Disability Bill 2004, together with a strategic review of the services as a whole.

It is expected that this review will examine the significant level of service provision which is already in place, focusing on specific issues which are of concern to people with disabilities and their families and carers, together with statutory and voluntary bodies in this area, with an opportunity to input into the planning and delivery of services over the coming years.

It is recognised that the health funded services in the Disability Services sector have advanced greatly over the last number of years. It is also acknowledged however that further work is required in the coming years. To that end I am pleased that this Government was in a position to announce on budget day a special disability multi-annual funding package with a total value of close to €900 million over the years 2006 to 2009. This funding is being dedicated now for the period until 2009 so as to ensure the delivery of these high priority disability services. This package includes guaranteed additional current spending of almost €600 million. The Government has also agreed to allocate €300 million out of the revised capital envelope to these high-priority disability services.

The bulk of the new funding package will go to the health sector where it will be invested in services for persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism, services for persons with physical or sensory disabilities and mental health services. It will focus, in particular, on the provision of extra residential, respite and day places, extra home support and personal assistance, and extra places in community based mental health facilities.

Another step forward for the sector is the National Physical and Sensory Disability Database which, like the National Intellectual Disability Database, will in the future provide comprehensive information as to service requirements from which the most appropriate service developments and their delivery can be accurately planned.

Thanks again, for having me here today to open your annual general meeting and I wish your Association every success with its future work throughout the country.