Minister vows to make opening of €3m children’s respite house in Limerick a ‘high priority’

Minister vows to make opening of €3m children’s respite house in Limerick a ‘high priority’

Minister Anne Rabbitte meeting Máire O’Leary, CEO, St Gabriel’s

THE CEO of a children’s respite house in Limerick is calling on the government to “urgently” commit to funding its annual running costs of almost €1.5 million in order for the facility to open.

The renewed calls follow a visit to St Gabriel's Children's Respite House in Mungret last Wednesday by Anne Rabbitte TD, Minister of State, Department of Children, Disability, Equality and Integration.

During her visit, Minister Rabbitte said that she would make the opening of the respite house “a high priority” as part of the Service Level Arrangement with St Gabriel’s for 2021.

Minister Rabbitte commented: “Having seen St Gabriel’s first-hand, it is clear how beneficial it can be to Limerick and the surrounding area. Creating additional respite spaces was a priority for me in Budget 2021, and it's places like St Gabriel’s that need to be supported to get their doors open.

“As the HSE drafts its plans for 2021, I look forward to working with the local HSE team to ensure we can progress this to the next stage next year. St Gabriel’s can be a major support for people across Limerick and I’m sure all public representatives will support any business case put forward to open its doors as soon as possible.”

The state-of-the art facility located in Mungret was designed and purpose built in 2018 to provide overnight respite breaks for children with severe physical disabilities and additional complex medical needs from across the Mid-West.

The facility, which cost almost €3 million to develop and is the first of its kind in the country, was completed in late 2018 but remains unopened due to a lack of Government funding.

It was built with monies raised from a wide range of community fundraising activities, donations, grants, corporate and business support including significant donations received from the McManus Charitable Foundation.

Máire O’Leary, CEO, St Gabriel’s said: “Covid-19 is impacting on all sectors in society but its impact is being felt very strongly by children with disabilities and their families. We have a responsibility to ensure we support them by offering a meaningful level of service to exhausted parents and families. These children have very complex needs, require specialist services and round the clock care. Many of the children are non-verbal, use wheelchairs and are Peg fed, and perhaps require oxygen and suction during the day. Some children have life-limiting conditions”.

Ms O’Leary said that the Covid-19 pandemic has been “an incredibly difficult time for these parents”.

“Over the past seven months they have had to pick up all the pieces themselves as schools have been closed and therapy services only available remotely. We have reached out to families as best we could but ‘tele-health’ just does not work for children with such complex disabilities and families need a break. We developed this wonderful respite facility with these children and families’ needs as our focus and it is heartbreaking to think that it cannot be used now when it is most needed. It is a perfect setting for children who need a break during Covid-19.”

Ms O’Leary said St Gabriel’s has an “excellent relationship” with the local HSE disability office “and we acknowledge their commitment in supporting our application for funding to be made available nationally.

“We urgently need the Government to commit to funding the annual running costs of almost €1.5 million in order for the respite house to open,” she said.

Willie O'Dea TD who requested the visit by Minister Rabbitte has said that St Gabriel's Children's Respite House, Mungret will open in January, following the visit to the facility by Minister Rabbitte TD.

“I had a meeting with Minister Rabbitte last week in Dublin and emphasised to her the vital importance of opening St Gabriel's Children's Respite House in Mungret,” Deputy O'Dea said last week.

“She was very receptive and interested in the respite house and agreed to come visit the facility in Limerick this week,” he continued.

“During her visit the minister met with the CEO of St Gabriel's Máire O'Leary, parents and staff. She was extremely impressed with the facility and committed to funding the required staff from January onwards. The estimated cost per annum will be in the region of €1.5 million.”

Minister Niall Collins TD stated: “The service provided to their clients is top-class and it is only right that the Government now steps in to address the funding gap”.

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