It is disgraceful that parents had to take to the airwaves to demand that the decision to cut summer respite services for children with special needs run by the Brothers of Charity at St. Rita’s in Clonmel be reversed. I commend those parents, who have been superb advocates for their children and for the disability family. The Minister of State will know that they are under pressure on a daily basis, 365 days a year. They did not need the additional frustration, worry and annoyance of the past year. These parents are entitled to and due an apology.
For years, those parents and we as TDs called for Summer respite services. Thankfully, that was eventually established in 2018, and last year’s Summer camp was professionally run, hugely successful and very valuable to both the children and the parents. Some 20 families were supported at very reasonable costs. Parent power has now saved that Summer camp. I again commend the parents for the campaign they have launched over the past week on the radio and by contacting their public representatives and the wider public.
Today I asked the Minister of State Finian McGrath to explain the exact situation in relation to this year’s Summer camp. I asked had the decision to cut this service been fully reversed? Have the Brothers of Charity been notified of this decision? Will the same level of service be available this year as last year? Will the same level of funding be available this year as last year?
Minister McGrath stated in part of his reply that the South East Community Healthcare, SECH, provides children’s respite services in two locations in south Tipperary including the Brothers of Charity camp in St. Rita’s respite services. In addition, SECH provides outreach and home-based respite to children with challenges accessing centre-based respite for a number of reasons including those confined to home for complex medical reasons or difficulty socialising safely with other children as a result of emerging diagnosis and responsive behaviours. He stated that the HSE is fully committed to maintaining the same level of service this year as in 2018. The additional funding provided last year will continue in 2019 and, in particular, the €2 million allocation to be spent on alternative respite services remains a high priority for the HSE. SECH acknowledges the quality service provided by St. Rita’s and will ensure that the necessary resources required for the Summer respite programme in St. Rita’s will continue to be provided to the Brothers of Charity in 2019.
I welcome this reply from the Minister, particularly the statement he made that the necessary resources required for the Summer respite programme in St. Rita’s will continue to be provided to the Brothers of Charity in 2019. That will be a relief to parents. It is a pity it had to come to this and the turmoil parents have been put through over the past week. It should never have been allowed to happen and I certainly hope it will never happen again. I asked the Minister of State to confirm that this respite service will continue next year and into the future. This service is essential for children with special needs and their families.
The Minister stated that when he left the Chamber he would be asking who put the parents through this particular situation. He stated that he is very much aware of the importance of access to planned respite, which ensures that people with disabilities receive opportunities to socialise and facilitates families to receive a break from caring, to preserve the family unit and to provide stability. He added that he gave a commitment three years ago that he would reform the disability services, invest in them, and put the person at the centre of those services, that there was a need to expand those services and that was his objective.
I will as always continue to follow up and keep you updated.