Thursday, June 19, 2008

Babies with Down syndrome turned away from disability services in Ireland due to funding crisis

The Independent in Ireland reports that a leading disability service there is turning away newborns with Down syndrome because of a funding crisis. And some adults with intellectual disabilities are now "homeless" (in respite care) after the death of their parents.

The financial report of St Michael's House, which provides a range of community-based services for people with intellectual disabilities, reported its dire financial situation June 18.

The chairman of the service, Maurice Bracken, said it's funding has been reduced €2m ($3.1 million) by the Health Service Executive (HSE) since 2003 but the demand for its services is rising.

"We are experiencing a crisis -- on the one hand our waiting lists are increasing and on the other our funding is decreasing," he said. "Essentially we are in a position of not being able to provide services to parents of newly born babies with Down Syndrome or other intellectual disabilities."

The services being cut for newborns involve testing on the severity of Down syndrome and providing tailored programs and physical therapy.

Bracken explained: "We would receive approximately 25 referrals from maternity hospitals and 60 referrals from GPs and other community services each year. At the moment we simply cannot accept these referrals -- this is an appalling and unacceptable position for parents."

He added there were currently 16 adults and children with intellectual disabilities who were "homeless" due primarily to the death of their parents; they are now staying in respite accommodation instead.

"We have a further 240 parents over the age of 70 who are still looking after their son or daughter at home who could at any moment require an emergency residential place," he said.

An estimated €200m ($310 million) allocated for disability and other services nationally is currently on hold until the Department of Finance allows the HSE to spend it.

(Note: The photo above is not from Ireland, but from the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. I think it is a beautiful photo that others would like to see.)