A €3m children’s respite house has been lying idle for nine months because the HSE “does not have the revenue to immediately fund its opening”
The St Gabriel’s spearheaded project was completed in October 2018.
The money to build the state-of-art six bedroom house in Mungret was from fundraising, donations – including over €1m from the JP McManus Benevolent Fund – and a loan.
The debt is currently €1m and donations are warmly welcomed.
Up to 80 children in the Mid-West with severe physical disabilities and additional and complex medical needs would benefit from the respite service.
Máire O’Leary, chief executive St Gabriel's Centre, confirmed the house remains closed even though there is a shortage of overnight respite in the area for all children with disabilities, but “particularly for children with complex physical disabilities who need additional medical and nursing care”.
“Families have been looking for this type of respite facility for years and having worked in the disability sector for over 25 years I cannot stress how important respite is for them. Parents want to care and look after their child at home but they need regular breaks to be able to sustain it in the long term,” said Ms O’Leary, who points to research that shows regular respite breaks helps to support the families and avoid the need for more long term costly residential care.
St Gabriel’s say the development of a children’s regional respite facility has been welcomed by the HSE Mid-West but “funding needs to be made available through the national budget to open the facility as soon as possible”.
“When this respite house opens, it will be a game-changer for these families and a matter of local and regional importance for the Mid-West region,” they said. St Gabriel’s currently provides a wide range of disability services for up to 600 children
A HSE spokesperson said they welcome this development and “we congratulate St Gabriel’s on the standard of the facility which has been developed predominantly from within their own resources”.
“The HSE does not have the revenue to immediately fund the opening of the centre. However, it is hoped that over time funding will become available to incrementally open aspects of the service.
“In the meantime, the HSE has provided funding towards specialist equipment for the centre and towards the employment of a member of staff to undertake preparatory work that is required for the commissioning of this service,” said the spokesperson.
Minister for State Patrick O’Donovan has visited the respite house in Mungret.
“It is a fabulous facility. They are providing very unique care for children and for families. I met some of the families and I heard first hand the difficulties that they have.
“I met some of the people involved in fundraising and management and we had a good discussion. They asked me to make contact with the Minister of Health which I have done.
“It is a project that is important in the Limerick and Mid-West area.
“My intention is to speak to the Minister of Health again with a view to seeing if there is some support and some progress that can be made,” said Minister O’Donovan.
In his former job as a teacher and now as a TD running his constituency office, he said he is very aware of the difficulties that families with special children have in simple day-to-day tasks.
“Services like this are very important for parents. I’d be fully supportive of it. I know that HSE has given an initial response.
“We all know the issue in relation to ongoing costs overruns but I think a case can be made for the likes of St Gabriel’s respite house,” said Minister O’Donovan.