No more time to waste in addressing “Wasted Lives”

May 5 2021

Slider Image.JPG
Cartoon image of man walking towards tress

Press Release, May 5 2021 - The Disability Federation of Ireland, DFI


The Disability Federation of Ireland, DFI, raised the alarm about the practice of inappropriate placing of people under-65 in nursing homes for over a decade. With today’s publication of the Wasted Lives report this practice needs to be consigned to history within the lifetime of this government.  


We wholeheartedly welcome and endorse the report from Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall. It confirms the findings of DFI and DCU’s research, published in 2018, that showed that investment in community services is needed to end this practice¹.  


It identifies the HSE and the Department of Health as those who must respond by year’s end with a comprehensive policy framework. But it also acknowledges that funding must be provided to finally end this abhorrent practice.   


If the targets set in this report are to mean anything we will need to see allocations made in this year’s Budget”, said DFI, CEO, John Dolan.  


As to how 1,320 young people with disabilities can be warehoused in nursing homes, the report offers the following chilling analysis:   

“There is a lack of clarity in relation to entitlement and eligibility for services. Although the HSE states that allocation is based on need, here is no statutory entitlement to services, even if someone is deemed to need the service. This can leave individuals in a very vulnerable position. “  


“Where the person expressed a clear preference to go home, quite often this preference does not seem to be an option.” - Wasted Lives  

All of the following are in chronically short supply in the community. All are the building blocks for an independent life for people with disabilities.   

  • Suitable, adapted housing   
  • Home supports   
  • PA supports   
  • Rehabilitative services, e.g. Physiotherapy   

Shane Rothwell spent 5 years in a nursing home in his 30s. "I was afraid the only way I would get out was in a coffin" he says.


Our photo shows Shane Rothwell, who spent five years in a nursing home in his 30s. "I was afraid the only way I'd get out was in a coffin" he says.

These and a wider range of community supports are necessary. Even when a need is proven to exist, community supports are not on a statutory footing like nursing home care.  


We welcome the funding in Budget 2021 to support 18 people to move out of nursing homes and to appoint a project manager to map people under 65 in nursing homes.  


However, much more needs to be done across the entire provision of disability services. “A young person with a disability living in nursing home needs to be seen for what it is – widespread systemic failure across services requiring widespread systemic response,” said John Dolan.   


For more information contact:  

DFI Communications Manager: Clare Cronin at 086 0277824, 


¹ Pierce, Kilcullen and Duffy (2018). The situation of younger people with disabilities living in nursing homes in Ireland- phase 1. DCU and DFI.