(02 Oct 2020)

The National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers has said that disability services detailed costings to the HSE demonstrating the need for additional funding to deal with the impact of COVID-19, and were shocked when the Government allocated just €10 million for the remainder of this year, which represents just a fraction of the funding required for services for people with disabilities.

Chairman of the National Federation, Sean Abbott explained that service providers cannot respond to the severe pressures that families and service users are experiencing without sufficient funding.

“Family carers, many of them elderly, have been providing supports to people with complex needs at home – including providing personal care to their adult sons and daughters – for over six months due to the reduced capacity in services, and are now at breaking point. Many children with disabilities, for whom timely services are essential to meeting milestones, are not receiving vital therapeutic services such as speech and language and physiotherapy. People with intellectual disabilities are experiencing severe mental health challenges as they struggle without the services upon which they relied pre-COVID.”

Mr Abbott said that many respite services are closed or severely restricted in capacity as they have been repurposed for isolation centres to deal with COVID cases.

Sean Abbott continued: “There are a range of areas across day services, residential and respite in which funding is required in the management of COVID-19. These supports are just as important as those provided in our schools, colleges and hospitals. However, these services need to be properly funded to address both the capacity and resourcing challenges posed by COVID-19.

Mr Abbott outlined some of the challenges facing services at the moment due to lack of funding.

“Because capacity has lessened in day services to meet the requirements of social distancing, it is not possible to accommodate pre-COVID numbers in centre-based day services. This is driving a requirement for substantial additional staffing significantly above pre-COVID levels.

“The need for additional staffing comes on top of a range of other additional costs involved for disability service providers including minor works to improve locations, provision of isolation centres, appropriate cleaning, sanitisation and signage, initial PPE outlay, technology costs to support individuals at home and additional transport due to restrictions.” 

Sean Abbott said that the impact of reduced day services on people with intellectual disabilities and their families is profound.

“There are 1,250 primary carers over the age of 70 who are caring at home for an adult relative with intellectual disability, and 400 of these carers are aged 80 or more. The €10 million allocated allows us to provide only a small proportion of what is needed for these families. Family carers are also wondering what happens if they are ill tomorrow and respite is full to deal with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases?”

“People with intellectual disabilities are one of the most vulnerable groups in society and, unfortunately, seem to have been largely forgotten in the Government response to COVID-19. Disability services need to be a priority for Government, and a rights-based approach needs to underpin policy in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Sean Abbott concluded by saying that the National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers, having met Minister Anne Rabbitte in recent days, will be briefing all of the opposition parties over the coming days, and is now seeking urgent engagement with senior officials in the HSE and Department of Health, and Minister Donnelly to address the massive funding shortfall.


Alison Harnett, Acting CEO, National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers 087-6559133 or alison.harnett@fedvol.ie


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