Dáil Éireann - Volume 568 - 10 June, 2003

Written Answers. - Promised Legislation.

  643. Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the disability Bill will not be published during the current Dáil session. [15397/03]

  Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am aware of the concerns regarding the provision of services to persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism. Additional funding of €13.3 million has been allocated to services for persons with an intellectual disability or autism in 2003 to meet the full year cost of the 2002 developments and to further enhance the health related support services to children with an intellectual disability or autism. This funding is in addition to the significant revenue investment, amounting to €188 million, which has been made in these services since 1997 and which is built into the ongoing budget base.

  The additional funding provided by this and the previous Government between 2000 and 2002 was used to put in place, in addition to a range of other services, over 900 new residential, 380 new respite and around 2,000 new day places for people with an intellectual disability and those with autism. In particular €14.6 million has been invested in health related support services for children with autism or an intellectual disability nationally between 1998 and 2002. A further €4 million has been allocated to these services in 2003. This includes diagnostic and assessment services, early intervention, home support and out reach support to children of school going age.

  Despite this significant investment, demographic factors are contributing to growing waiting lists for residential services in particular, although the numbers of people in receipt of services, including full time residential services, continues to increase. The increased birth rate in the 1960s and 1970s has resulted in large numbers of adults in their late 20s and early 30s requiring full-time residential services. In addition, people with an intellectual disability are living longer than previously, adding to the need for services compared to previous generations. This has also been the international experience in service provision to this population.

  The overall economic position in 2003 has had implications for all aspects of public investment and this is reflected in the Estimates and budget adopted by the Government for 2003. Within this overall framework, however, some two thirds of the additional funding available for non-capital investment in services has been allocated to the health services. This funding is being applied largely to maintaining existing levels of service across all service programmes, including services for people with an intellectual disability. While it is regrettable that the level of investment in these services achieved in recent years could not be maintained in 2003, my Department will work closely with the health boards and other service [424] providers in relation to service provision this year.