Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cash-strapped organisations providing care to thousands of people with disabilities are being “coerced” into hiding the true cost of delivering services, the Oireachtas health committee has been told.

Chairperson of the Not for Profit Association, Rosemary Keogh, said member organisation reported a combined deficit of €8.3m last year and blamed a shortfall in HSE funding.

Ms Keogh said their association represented the largest independent, national, not for profit organisations that are engaged in the provision of essential social care services for the State.

Members include the Rehab Group, Irish Wheelchair Association, Enable Ireland, Cheshire Ireland, National Council for the Blind of Ireland and Chime, the national charity for deafness and hearing loss.

Ms Keogh said member organisations had been subsidising the cost of providing services on behalf of the HSE from their own independently generated income and related reserves.

“Those reserves are now depleted and continued delivery of services is under immediate threat,” she said.

Ms Keogh said the situation was compounded by the HSE’s ongoing insistence that deficits are not recorded in the annual service arrangements process.

When providers do record those deficits in service arrangements the HSE threatens to withhold 20% of the already inadequate funding.

Ms Keogh said the Irish Wheelchair Association of which she is chief executive received a letter from the HSE this week warning that it faced a 20% funding cut as a result of recording deficits in its service arrangement for this year. “For me if that doesn’t demonstrate coercion, I don’t know what does,” she said.

Dr Catherine Day, chair of the independent review group that examined the role of voluntary organisations in publicly funded health and personal social services said the whole funding process was designed to try and “squeeze down” the costs.

The group recommended that the deficit be assessed and a plan made for eliminating it by providing more money or not making the service available. “There are not many options,” she said.

Representatives of organisations providing disability services to over 40,000 adults and children across the country told the committee that the total deficit in the sector had reached at least €40m this year and the situation was worsening.

Labour’s Alan Kelly said it was obvious that the sector was in crisis and that at some point “the top will explode”.

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