[Sinn Fein]

11th December 2002

Ó Caolain slams `savage' cut in services for people with intellectual disabilities

Sinn Fein Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has condemned the cut in the budget for services for people with mental handicap/intellectual disabilities. He said the cut from ¤38 million this year to ¤13.3 million next year would mean that existing services cannot be maintained. He said:

``One of the most neglected groups of people in this country for decades have been people with mental handicap/intellectual disabilities and their families. Progress has been made and acknowledged in recent years but the savage cut in the Budget allocated to the health boards for mentally handicapped services next year - from ¤38 million to ¤13.3 million - is a total disgrace.

``This cut has been described as disastrous by the Federation of Voluntary Bodies and by the National Association of the Mentally Handicapped of Ireland as bringing us back to the mid-1990s. The caring agencies and voluntary bodies will not be able to maintain existing services let alone proceed with badly needed new developments. It will mean longer waiting lists for day care, respite care and long-term residential care.

``The scandal of over nearly 500 people with intellectual disabilities detained inappropriately in psychiatric institutions is set to continue.

``These are very vulnerable people. Carers of the mentally handicapped are mostly themselves elderly people trying to cope and living with the worry of what will become of their children when they die. The Government should make an immediate commitment to reverse this callous cut.''

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