Deputy Harkin claims HSE is effectively telling carers ‘We are cutting frontline services.  It will fall back on families.  Get used to it’.

Leitrim Observer Reporter

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Leitrim Observer Reporter

MEP Marian Harkin accuses Government  of undermining LEADER

Deputy Marian Harkin has criticised the HSE for its treatment of family carers of adults with disabilities

The HSE has told family carers for adults with disabilities that they will be reducing services which will then have to be replaced by extra commitments from carers themselves according to Sligo/Leitrim Independent TD, Marian Harkin.

Questioning the Minister for Health Simon Harris in Dail Eireann this week, Deputy Harkin said that the HSE was effectively saying to carers ‘We are cutting frontline services.  It will fall back on families.  Get used to it’.

She told the Minister that family carers of adults with disabilities were 100% abandoned from March 16 and, with many of them cocooning, were left as prisoners in their own homes.

Referring to a new document published by the HSE - The framework for the Resumption of Adult Disability Day Services -  Deputy Harkin said that the decisions it contained contravened the new Programme for Government which committed to "expand adult day services and supports throughout the country".

She quoted a carer with whom she had spoken just two hours beforehand who told her "everything we have fought for over the past 30 years is disappearing from in front of our eyes".

Deputy Harkin was strongly critical of the HSE’s suggestion of communication with clients through the use of technology such as zoom and video.

"What about those who do not have access to the internet, those who are non-verbal or those who have a visual disability.  What about those whose attention span will not allow them to participate, who will take one look at the screen and walk away?" she asked.

"As one carer said to me, what about the nitty gritty everyday challenges that parents face in the context of toileting and what we, euphemistically, refer to as challenging behaviours’?

Questioning HSE policy she asked: "If schools and creches can open, why not day services for adults with disabilities?  If pubs and shopping centres can open, why not day services. I’m not saying this is simple, it’s not, it’s complicated but the HSE is starting from a position of reduction in services".   

She insisted that the HSE policy should not be permitted to be the new normal, as they had suggested, but just a temporary adjustment until the levels of service to those with disabilities were, as promised, reinstated and expanded within a realistic timeframe.   She also insisted that family carers be fully engaged with, and supported, before any reduction in services were put in place. 

In his reply Minister Simon Harris stated: “The way the Deputy has outlined the issue is exactly how this should be viewed. This is a starting point to get these services back up and running. These people and their families have been left largely on their own due to this pandemic and we need to get the services back up and running.

"Not all day-centres are the same, nor are all service users the same. There should not be one crude document that fits all. It will require engagement and I will make sure there is real meaningful engagement with the associations and directly with people with disabilities”. 

He said he will correspond with Deputy Harkin in detail on this matter.