Parents of children with disabilities call for new approaches to save money

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Five major agencies (Inclusion Ireland, the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, the National Parents and Siblings Alliance, Irish Autism Action and Down Syndrome Ireland) representing people with an intellectual disability and autism held a joint press conference on Wednesday 14 October. They called on the government to think firmly in economic terms: supporting children with an intellectual disability from an early age saves the state in the long-term, and restructuring and reimagining how disability services are provided can save the state millions. Both also result in a better quality of life for persons with a disability and their families.

The five organisations called on government to ensure that the voice of people with an intellectual disability will be heard in the upcoming Budget. Below are some extracts from speeches at the press conference.

As a mother of an 11 year old with an intellectual disability, I believe we need to reform our approach to give better choice and quality of life to our loved ones and to deliver that service in a more cost effective way. – Avril Webster, Mother

There is a growing demand from people with disabilities to live the lives of their choice to the full. There is recognition that a good life can be led if the proper supports, paid and unpaid, from family, friends, professionals if required, and also approved service providers, are put in place – this will provide the chance to live a normal life in the community. – Deirdre Carroll, CEO, Inclusion Ireland

I come here today not to ask for mercy from the knife: I come to talk financial sense, to help get the balance right in exchequer spending. In the case of many special needs, autism in particular, intervention and costs can be: Early and cheap – or late and expensive. We know that if we intervene early with the right solutions – the child has a life and the long term costs to the state are dramatically reduced. Unfortunately, experience has also shown us that if our interventions are wrong or late – the child’s life is often destroyed, and the state ends up paying anyway. – Brian Murnane, Board Member, Irish Autism Action

An Taoiseach, Mr Brian Cowan, TD, and his government are rightly proud of the increased resources that were invested in the protected in the Budget. – Brian O’Donnell, CEO, National Federation of Voluntary Bodies

Brian Cowen has spoken on many occasions about having to use innovative and imaginative ways to survive this recession…we agree, it’s not about looking for more money but the better use and management of existing resources and budgets….. At the moment, agency.directed services shape lives to suit the service without offering choice, value or consistency. We are calling for individualised funding, it’s the same amount of money but it will provide a superior quality of life, as well as allowing for greater competition between service providers, giving the HSE the ability to budget more effectively and most importantly giving choice to people with an intellectual disability about how they conduct their lives. – Mary O’Reilly, President, Down Syndrome Ireland

I say to Minister O’Keeffe, do not take funding away from special education, but if you must save money use what you have to do the job properly. That is: train your teachers, train your principals, train your SNAs, and, with the greatest of respect, train your SENOs. And, finally, allocate resources on the basis of need and not on a formula basis. I have no doubt that if you do this you will save money in the long run and have a system without leaky lifeboats that actually recognises the child’s needs and really addresses them. – Seamus Greene, Director, National Parents & Siblings Alliance

(From Inclusion Ireland’s press release)

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