Statistics secured by Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD show that 70 people with disabilities are waiting for residential placement in Co Meath. Responding to the statistics Deputy Tóibín said:
“It is clear that throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the most vulnerable have been left abandoned. This is particularly obvious when it comes to people with disabilities. The closure of special schools for such a long time has had detrimental consequences for families and students – many people have been contacting me to say that their son or daughter’s condition has regressed as a result of the closure of special schools and indeed the redeployment of multi-disciplinary therapists to Covid-19 contact-tracing roles. When we look at the situation with regards to housing, we see huge problems for people with disabilities in terms of lack of proper housing facilities – structural problems, stairs, lack of quotas, etc”.
Deputy Tóibín continued: “Recently in response to a Parliamentary Question the HSE have confirmed to me that there are currently 70 people from County Meath on a database waiting on a HSE-funded residential placement. The HSE declined to indicate how long some of these people have been waiting, but we know from the statistics for other counties that this wait can sometimes be in excess of a decade, in Wexford, for example, some of those on the waiting list have been waiting for more than fifteen years! In their answer regarding the wait time for Meath, the HSE say that the issue relates to resources – “the allocation of residential placements is resource dependent… Meath Disability Services continues to review the resources available”.
“Residential placement is, for many families, a last resort. Typically, a person with disabilities is kicked out of the special education system when they turn eighteen. Given the closures of special schools, and the redeployment of specialist therapists, many families have been left completely abandoned by the State and have been facing very challenging circumstances throughout the pandemic. For this reason Aontú is calling on the government to grant students in special schools with an extra year of special education. Documents that I secured under the Freedom of Information Act show that the group ‘Parentline’ sent an email to the Minister for Children and Equality on 19th October 2020 reporting a “sharp increase in violent, aggressive and controlling behaviors directed by the child to a parent”. The group also notified the Minister of a “large increase in the number of parents calling the helpline and a 300% increase in the number of requests for access to the non-violent resistance program”. No family in such a situation should be left waiting for years on a waiting list for rest bite or residential placement, and yet we know that there are 70 families in Meath in that position. It is a totally unacceptable situation and the government must step up” concluded Tóibín.