Statement from the Disability Federation of Ireland on the recruitment and retention crisis in Section 39-funded organisations 

September 26 2023

John DFI quote

Disabled people and their families were given commitments by this Government that things would become better, instead thousands of disabled people and their families are soon to have no service to support them if the upcoming strike by Section 39 funded organisations goes ahead from 17 October.

This comes shortly after the publication of the Disability Capacity Review (2021) which sets out a ten-year plan, yet we are at a crisis point in the provision and sustainability of existing services.  

It also comes just three years after the high ambition of the Programme for Government, in which we were told, “……we are now serious about making a difference – a difference that will make things better.”

The non-reversal of deep cuts to pay and services during the recession, which ended in 2013, is not news to government. This situation has been festering for over a decade and it is compounded by a crisis where staff are leaving to simply move to the HSE and elsewhere to get the government agreed pay and conditions. Consequently, services to disabled people are being further restricted and downgraded on a daily basis for some time.  

The government knows what needs to happen to properly resolve this crisis in critical services that disabled people and their families depend on. To put it plainly and simply - there are pay differentials in the region of up to 15% in this government sponsored two-tier pay system for staff who are doing similar or identical work. 

We see on a daily basis, the deterioration and negative impact on good and sustainable service provision due to the migration of workers. The net effect is deterioration of the services and the fear of imminent postponement of services across the country.  

Now we come to this point of strike action. The trade unions are not targeting the voluntary/community employing organisations. Their focus is on the State which continues to use two different funding models. These two ways of funding, Section 38 and 39 of the Health Act 2004, are incompatible with the provision of fair and equitable services to people. 

How are people to ever trust politicians when they again make promises, if this is not resolved before any strikes happen? 


Notes for Editors: 

Workers in the following organisations, six of which are DFI member organisations, will take indefinite strike action from Tuesday 17 October:

  • Ardeen Cheshire Ireland
  • Ability West
  • Cheshire Ireland
  • Cheshire Dublin
  • Cheshire Home Newcastle West
  • Co-action West Cork
  • Cobh Hospital
  • Daughters Of Charity Child and Family Service
  • DePaul Ireland
  • Don Bosco Care
  • Enable Ireland (nationwide, including Cork, Tralee, East Coast and Midwest regions)
  • Family Resource Centres
  • Irish Wheelchair Association
  • Kerry Parents and Friends
  • St. Catherines Association Ltd
  • St. Josephs Foundation
  • St. Lukes Nursing Home
  • Trinity Community Care
  • Western Care Association


Disability Capacity Review 

The Disability Capacity Review, published in 2021 by the Department of Health quantifies and costs future need for disability support services, with required in the provision of  specialist community-based disability services supported through the HSE Disability Programme.

Section 38 and 39 Funding 

Section 38 arrangements involve organisations being funded to provide services on behalf of the HSE, while under Section 39 the HSE grant-aids a wide range of organisations, to a greater or lesser extent.  

Staff of bodies funded under Section 38 of the Health Act 2004 are classified as public servants. They are subject to the standard salary scales for the health sector as well as having public service pension schemes and being counted in public service employment numbers. 

The employees of agencies that receive grants from the HSE under Section 39 are not public servants and are not specifically subject to the payscales approved for public servants. 

Programme for Government on Disability 

"Ever since Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we have signalled to those with a disability that we are now serious about making a difference – a difference that will make things better. The ratification raised awareness of the lived experience of people with disabilities, but we have much more to do.

"In doing more, we now need to improve the services available through better implementation and by working together across Government in a better way. We want to empower and give those with a disability the ability to choose the supports that most meet their needs."  (Page 77 on Disability) 


For media contact:

Brenda Drumm, Communications Manager, Disability Federation of Ireland, 086 076 4114