‘We’re left with no choice but to end our disability services’

St John of God charity has stated that they have no choice but to pull out of providing disability services across the county and country due to a funding short-fall, leaving hundreds of families distressed and worried about the future of services in Kerry.

CEO and Regional Director for Kerry Services, Claire Dempsey, said that without funding, the organisation, which has a funding deficit, can no longer continue to provide disability services to thousands of children and adults across the country.

“It costs more to run the services that what we have,” she said.

“This the last thing we want to do. We have no choice. We don’t have the money to run the services.”

The decision by the charity organisation has sent shock-waves across the county, with parents fearing for the future of disability services, which will fall under the remit of the HSE.

The decision by St John of God was announced last Thursday but will not come into effect for 12 months, to allow for a smooth transition for all service users. Speaking to The Kerryman, Ms Dwyer said that the organisation had ‘no choice’.

“This is not something we want to do, but we had no choice. This is a difficult time for families and very upsetting. Families are at breaking point, services have been eroded since the pandemic, families can’t access day services, and there is a lack of funding to provide additional services.

“We are very sorry it has come to this. My hope is that a solution could be found.”

St John of God charity sent a letter to the HSE, a letter which has been acknowledged, outlining their intention to withdraw from providing disability services across Kerry and the country. They also sent a letter to the families of service-users.

The organisation is giving 12 months’ notice to allow an orderly hand-over. However, the organisation has added that they would not pull out of providing services if funding was granted by the HSE to allow them to run these services.

Earlier this year the organisation sent a letter to families and service users outlining their intention to pull out of providing services, due to the funding deficit, and they have now followed through on this decision. St John of God’s provides services across Kerry to more than 300 children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. These include 15 day-care services, including in Listowel, Kenmare, Dingle and Castleisland. They also provide a number of residential services, including the running of St Mary of the Angels in Beaufort.

They also provide supported living facilities in Tralee in Oakview village and Forge Park, and respite care in Killorglin and Listowel, as well as several after-school services, including in Cahersiveen. An audit by the HSE of St John of God services highlighted the need for more staff, but the organisation is unable to hire as funding is not available from the HSE.

The need for more funding has been further compounded by the pandemic.

In Kerry alone, €18m is needed to run the services they provide, but a further €2.6m is needed to hire the required extra staff for Kerry, which they cannot do without HSE funding.

Nationally the organisation has a €37.7m deficit. Services cost €187m, but the HSE only provides €160m of this.

The charity has put in €16m themselves to reduce their debt, but they can’t allow the deficit to continue to grow, leading to their decision to pull out of providing services.

“We just can’t continue, we don’t have the money. We have been appealing for funding for the last five years. We have been left with no option. We have to have the money to provide services, and that is the reality.”

St John of God was embroiled in controversy in recent years after it emerged that they had paid top-ups to managers but insisted that this controversy has nothing to do with the lack of funding to provide disability services.

“That has nothing to do with the deficit. That was addressed separately by St John of God’s,” said Ms O’Dwyer.

Independent.ie – News