Budget 2021 – Down Syndrome Ireland broadly welcomes increased funding for disability supports

Down Syndrome Ireland broadly welcomes the increased funding for disability supports announced in today’s Budget but says it is keen to see how this funding will translate into increased services and supports on the ground.

We note this €100 million is to go to;

  • An increase in Personal Assistant, PA, hours.
  • A commitment to badly needed, extra respite services.
  • Support for 17,000 school leavers

With support from 16,000 additional posts across the health sector.

In addition, there is;

  • €20 million to support disability support services through the continued delivery of the “Transforming Lives” policy.
  • €10 Covid-19 stability fund for Community and Voluntary groups.
  • €5 million for extra home care hours to alleviate community waiting lists.
  • €5 million dedicated to community-based dementia care.
  • €38 million for new measures under Sharing the Vision Mental Health.

The Government must be commended for these measures.

Deirdre Saul, Interim CEO Down Syndrome Ireland, said “People with Down syndrome and other disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. While it’s positive to see an increase of €100m disability funding in Budget 2021, we are keen to see how this translates into a real increase in the quality and quantity of supports available to allow people with disabilities to live their lives on their own terms.  We will be watching closely to see how any additional funding will be allocated. We are now seven months into this pandemic and we have seen day and respite services decimated leaving many people with Down syndrome and their families in unsustainable situations. We’ve been talking with families who are really struggling and we sincerely hope this funding will go some way towards restoring vital services in the months ahead.”

The charity also welcomes the increase of allocation for SNAs for pupils with disabilities in school – this is essential as many children were sharing access to an SNA, sometimes across different classrooms, prior to the pandemic. However, children need more than care supports to be able to fully access the curriculum.

Ms Saul added: “Children with Down syndrome require frequent ongoing access to speech and language therapy, occupational and physiotherapy from an early age to enable them to learn alongside their peers. This is simply not happening. We hope that the additional HSE posts announced today will mean that therapists who are currently redeployed can return to delivering therapy. However, even before the pandemic, the available posts were in no way meeting the significant therapy needs of children and adults with Down syndrome.  More than half of children were waiting 6 months or longer to access vital State Speech and Language Therapy, with some waiting years.”

DSI also outlined its disappointment that the weekly carers allowance has not been increased given the huge additional pressures that carers have been under this year due to the lack of supports outside the home during the pandemic. While the annual grant has been marginally increased, the day to day additional costs of living with a disability are unacknowledged.

Ms Saul added: “The additional funds allocated in Budget 2021  provides the potential for a real change in helping ensure people with disabilities are supported to live the lives they want. We encourage the Government to engage in true consultation with people with disabilities and their advocates to ensure this funding is used in the most effective way.”

Read DSI’s Pre-Budget Submission.