DFI highlights the need for transparency on the Disability and Health Service Budget 2024 funding  

October 20 2023, 04:22pm

Budget 24 Health

Budget 2024 has again highlighted the need for greater transparency around the details and decision-making on funding of disability services. In spite of DFI, and colleagues in the Oireachtas Disability Group repeatedly highlighting the importance of transparency in the months leading up to the Budget, this has again been an issue this year which inhibits appropriate engagement and scrutiny of the Budget.  

There was a lack of clarity on Budget day as to the full allocation for disability services, with funding of €64.1m announced in Minister O’Donohoe’s speech and the published Expenditure report, and funding of €195m announced in Minister Rabbitte’s speech and the DCEDIY Budget press release. DFI and others across the sector sought immediate clarity on this and can now confirm that there is €64.1m additional funding for disability services, and €131m for Existing Level of Service funding, including the full year cost of Budget 2023 measures.  

The €64.1m additional funding breaks down as follows:  

  • €20.5m for 90 to 100 residential places for children and adults 
  • €10m for respite services to build on existing provision, and to provide more alternative respite such as in homes, after-school  
  • €18.2m for school leavers entering day services – 1,250 to 1,400 places 
  • €2m additional funding in Personal Assistant services to promote independent living, delivering around 80,000 additional hours, continued investment in Home Support services 
  • €1.4m for increased investment in community neurological teams 
  • €8.5m for children’s services including the recruitment of additional therapy positions, increasing third level places and supports for specialist children’s disability services 

In addition, Capital investment of €23.7m will provide for the upgrading and development of disability services. 

Many of the details behind these high-level funding figures will not be available until publication of the HSE Service Plan, which following last year’s Budget was published at end of March 2023. It is unacceptable that people with disabilities, families and disability services must wait six months to fully understand the details behind the disability services Budget.  

We still await the publication of the Disability Capacity Review Action Plan, which government approved in July and Department of Children, Equality, Disability Integration and Youth announced would be published in early autumn. What is clear, is that the additional funding allocated for implementation of the Disability Action Plan falls far below the requirements outlined in the Disability Capacity Review to address demographic change and significant unmet need for funding. Without the prior publication of the Disability Action Plan appropriate scrutiny of Budget funding was not possible.   The low level of funding for PA services is a particular concern, as is the lack of provision in this year’s Budget to support people aged under 65 inappropriately placed in nursing homes to move to more appropriate settings. There is also a need for funding for day services under New Directions to address unmet need among older adults as there is significant need beyond the yearly cohort of school leavers. 

Significant recruitment and retention challenges in Section 39 organisations was highlighted strongly in advance of the Budget, and an impending strike in Section 39 disability services was averted at 3am on Tuesday 17th October. Read DFI’s commentary on this here. There is a need now to ensure sustainable funding and pay parity for Section 39 organisations, otherwise the issue will persist. Linked to this, DFI were disappointed that there was no repeat of the €63m inflation fund for community and voluntary disability organisations in the Budget, despite enduring inflationary pressures.   

The disappointing overall level of funding for disability services takes place in the context of a low level of Budgetary funding for the health service as a whole. This has been significantly commented on by HSE and governmental figures, and in the media:  

A greater level of transparency is needed, both in terms of the detail behind Budgetary announcements, which should be clear and accessible, and also in terms of how governmental decisions are made on disability funding. The disability sector does not have a formal channel for engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to outline evidence of funding needs and engage collaboratively. 

20 October 2023