A reversal of the cuts made to the budget of St Christopher’s Services has been ruled out by Minister Kathleen Lynch but hopes remain that there may be scope for funding relief within the wider HSE system.
A meeting of Minister of State Kathleen Lynch with delegates from St Christopher’s Services alongside leading members of the Department of Health, the HSE and local politicians, held in Leinster House last Thursday, has been described as positive by all parties.
Director of St Christopher’s, Pat O’ Toole, said the minister made it clear there was no more money available within the Department but there may be ways of looking at the efficiency within the HSE to limit the impact of the cuts.
However, Mr O’Toole said it was too early to speculate if this would reduce the level of cuts to St Christopher’s.
“Minister Lynch was very positive towards St Christopher’s, both of the services and the value for money we provide. She was well aware of the services we provide and the breakdown of our costs and showed a lot of empathy to the situation,” Mr O’ Toole told the Leader.
While the majority of funding for St Christopher’s comes through the Department of Health, much of it is dispersed through different avenues of the HSE possibly allowing for a spending review within the HSE to limit the cuts to St Christopher’s.
Members of St Christopher’s will now meet with the HSE’s Donal Fitzsimons to analyse if there is room for manoeuvre within the HSE. It is understood these meetings will begin early this week.
Eugene Magee, representing the parents association at the meeting, which lasted 45 minutes, made a strong case for the retention of respite services which are most at risk given the cuts of €450,000 planned for this year alone.
“Respite is the most urgent issue we’re facing; it allows ageing parents a vital break. People not familiar with St Christopher’s largely assume that it’s young children in there but there’s a lot of older people who are living at home with parents who themselves are getting older.
“With a special needs child, or child with autism or in a wheelchair, you cannot simply ask your neighbour to keep an eye; they require professional care, and without that respite, parents, many of whom are elderly themselves, will not be able to cope,” Mr Magee added.
Deputy James Bannon, who attended the meeting alongside fellow Longford Westmeath TDs Willie Penrose and Robert Troy, said, “I am as confident as it is possible to be in this economic climate that Minister Lynch was receptive to the delegation’s reasoned request for a review of funding to St Christopher’s with a reasonable prospective of some alleviation of financial restraints.
“Currently serious cutbacks are adversely affecting St Christopher’s but the Minister and her officials have committed to reviewing the position for 2013/14,” Deputy Bannon added.