Minister Tim O´Malley – Launch of Quest Brain Injury Services

I am delighted to be here today and would like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers, and in particular Mr. Francis Byrne, for the kind invitation to officially launch Quest Brain Injury Services.

Being a relatively new recruit to the world of health and disabilities, I was somewhat horrified when informed that approximately 13,000 people sustain a traumatic brain injury in Ireland every year. Within the Western Health Board area alone this would suggest roughly 900 cases annually.

Throughout our lives, each and every one of us is affected either directly or through our family members or friends, by disabling conditions of some nature or other. Such conditions present those affected with numerous questions, emotions and challenges.

Adults with a brain injury experience physical, psychological and social difficulties. Consequently, this impacts on their personal, social and vocational functioning. Poor memory, concentration difficulties, personality change, loss of co-ordination, lack of motivation – these are only some of the problems that victims of brain injury are confronted with which all lead, regrettably, to social exclusion. Their role in family and community life becomes limited and very often results in exclusion from the workplace.

In order to best overcome these experiences, a combination of solutions are required. Research, care and support are essential to enable people with such conditions to achieve their maximum potential in life. It is essential that adequate information is available to people with disabilities, their families and friends, to provide answers to their many questions. A high level of public awareness is vital to enable people with disabilities to gain the respect that they deserve, as valued members of our communities.

Fortunately for the citizens of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, Quest has now been established to provide support and training to people with an acquired brain injury. Quest will provide individuals with the courage and confidence to acquire a fulfilling and dignified existence.

I would like to point out that there have been a number of key developments in the Disability Sector in recent years in relation to the enhancement of services and the development of new services to meet identified needs. This has been made possible by the significant increased investment over the last number of years from an additional €36.82million in 1997 to approximately €82million extra in 2002.

With particular reference to services for people with physical and sensory disabilities, additional funding of over €185million has been provided, during this time, for the maintenance and development of health support services, including residential, respite, day, home support and therapy services. The ongoing element of this funding emphasises this Government´s commitment to the continued development of services to people with disabilities.

To encourage the development of a partnership approach between the voluntary and statutory sectors, the Department of Health and Children and the health boards engage with the voluntary sector at various national and local for a and committees, on the allocation of available funding and participation in policy development. It is vital to the ongoing development of the disabilities sector that the partnership between voluntary organisations and statutory bodies is nurtured. Furthermore, it is essential that available resources are used to maximise the impact which they have. If this partnership approach is encouraged, I believe it will result in a more efficient, seamless service which will be precious to all involved.

I would also like to point out that the Department of Health and Children, in conjunction with the Health Research Board, the health boards and the voluntary sector, is currently developing a National Physical and Sensory Disability Database, which when complete, will provide a detailed picture of the service requirements of people with physical and sensory disabilities over a five year period.

This Database will enable a co-ordinated and planned approach to be taken to what is ultimately most important, the delivery of quality services to individuals as required. I appreciate that a lot of hard work is required from all involved but I also wish to stress that this project will be of great benefit to those receiving, delivering and planning services for people with physical and sensory disabilities.

All that remains is for me to say a sincere word of thanks to all involved in this new development – Quest Brain Injury Services and for the great work that this establishment promises to deliver. Congratulations to everyone for all your devoted efforts and I wish you every success in all your future endeavours.

Thank you.