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01 Dec 2021

Severe challenges for families with members with intellectual disabilities

'Provision and services seriously lacking in Inishowen'- Cllr Albert Doherty

'Provision and services seriously lacking in Inishowen'-  Cllr Albert Doherty

'Provision and services seriously lacking in Inishowen'- Cllr Albert Doherty

The many challenges facing Donegal families caring for members with intellectual disabilities are proving intractable.

Speaking to Donegal Live, Councillor Albert Doherty said he had been approached by several families experiencing difficulties in recent weeks.

“Families feel there are two areas which need serious consideration. The first is the provision and services for adults with special needs, which are currently seriously lacking in Inishowen. The second is the severe lack of respite care in the peninsula.

“One particular case related to the adult centre at Gaelic Hub Park in Carndonagh, which caters for adults with special needs. The centre does not appear to have enough staff / carers to keep the services operational for the clients. There is no supervision on the transport to and from the centre, so, often mornings, clients are waiting to be picked up but the bus never arrives.

“One person told me, 'It is awful to try and explain to family members why they have no bus and no carers and have to remain cooped up at home. No-one even bothers to phone us and say the bus is not coming'.

“In terms of respite care, I know of one family where the older mother of an adult with special needs has not had any respite services for three years. This is shocking,” said Cllr Doherty.

When Cllr Doherty contacted Local Link regarding escort availability on buses he was told there had been a delay in securing a person for this position.

Local Link added: “We advertised and had recruitment drives in Inishowen on a number of occasions but, unfortunately, no-one was available for work. We have now secured a travel escort on this service for the last four weeks but, unfortunately, the centre is now closed due to Covid-19 and we have no opening date.”

Cllr Doherty said this explanation was beyond belief.

He added: “We are being told no-one was available for work, in relation to escort services and one of the consequences was families with people with intellectual disabilities could not avail of the service.

“I will also be seeking clarification whether the person who, eventually, secured the position, will be in place, on the transport, when the centre re-opens. When I raised the issue of transport and respite with Edel Quinn, Head of Service Disability, she acknowledged the current deficits in transport services for service users attending HSE day centre's in the Inishowen area.”

Ms Quinn added: “The transport to day centres is provided by Seirbhis Iompair Tuaithe Teo (SITT) Rural Transport on behalf of the HSE. The HSE has been informed by SITT that it is currently recruiting for part-time travel escorts for persons with intellectual disabilities and the company is hopeful that the shortfalls in service will be resolved as soon as possible.

“In order to have a full resumption of day services for clients, the HSE is actively recruiting health care assistants. Recruitment in the Inishowen area has proven challenging for a number of disciplines and grades of staff further to a number of recent campaigns.

“In addition recruitment agencies are indicating shortages of staff available with particular difficulties in certain areas including Inishowen.

“There are a number of residents currently being provided with emergency respite on a full time basis in response to critical need in Riverwalk House. It is not possible to provide any further respite to regular service users at this time. Alternative residential accommodation is actively being sought for these two services users to allow for Riverwalk to re-open for respite for other service users and their families.

Service users who have been identified as Priority 1 category, have been offered the option of availing of a respite service in Ballymacool Respite House, Letterkenny. Home support packages have also been made available to service users as required and needs are kept under review.”

A clearly exasperated Cllr Doherty said the situation in Riverwalk House had been going on for eighteen months.

He added: “If the HSE is able to highlight the recruitment difficulties in Inishowen, if that's what it is finding, it needs to redouble its efforts.

“We cannot have the same consequences all the time of families with members who have intellectual disabilities being denied access to services. It is annoying, disappointing and frustrating that families have, once again had to step into the breach.

“I have submitted a motion to the Regional Health Forum meeting next Tuesday proposing the HSE provide additional Respite supports for service users and families in Inishowen to include: The provision of emergency respite beds; An increase to the number of respite beds currently available in Riverwalk House, Carndonagh; and The recruitment and provision of an adequate number of trained resource personnel to enable Day Service continue when emergency staffing issues arise. Covid-19 outbreaks are resulting in redeployment of staff, the closure of day services, inadequate emergency home support packages and unfair pressure being put on families.”

n addition, Cllr Doherty has also tabled a question at the Regional Health Forum regarding what Mental Health HSE supports are currently in place to assist individuals and families affected by Covid -19; Remote working; unemployment; and the emotional scourge that is MICA in family homes?

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