The Minister with Responsibility for Disabilities, Finian McGrath, said he is taking action to ensure that funding of disability services reaches the people for whom it is intended - rather than being absorbed by service providers on contract to the HSE or diverted elsewhere.

Responding to a report on RTÉ’s This Week programme, the minister said he was aware of cases where this was happening.

"As far as I am concerned, it's unacceptable - and I have to act on it and I will act on it.

"It's an issue that comes up every now and again. [In] the vast majority of cases, that doesn't happen, but there are a substantial number of cases out there that I have to deal with - and we have to ensure that the money is given to provide for the person with the disability," said Mr McGrath.

Disability campaigners told This Week that they believe that funding is driven too much by contracts between the HSE and organisations providing care services, rather than by the needs of individuals with disabilities.

Inclusion Ireland - which advocates on behalf of people with learning disabilities and their families - said that money is being absorbed by service providers, in cases where the service is not considered appropriate to the needs of a disabled person or there is a disagreement with a family or an individual over what care or supports are to be provided.

"There are a number of situations I'd be aware of where, for different reasons, a family member may not be attending a service - but the service is still drawing down funding from the HSE for that person.

"They would be contacted by the service provider on occasion to ask how that person is doing but, by and large, the person is not availing of a full service in the service provider," said Inclusion Ireland chief executive, Paddy Connolly.

Mr McGrath said he plans to take action to prevent this.

"Over the last six months, I've met in the region of 2,800 people, both families and service providers and the whole sector, and I've been told by a number of parents and families that this is the actual case. So my focus now is to see can I do something about that and I am acting on this matter as well," he said.

The minister pointed out that he established a task force in September to advise on a system of personalised budgets for people with disabilities. These funding models are a key demand for disability organisations, who want people to have more control over tailor-made programmes of care and support, rather than institutional-based care or courses run by large providers or organisations.

Mr McGrath said he was not aware of any auditing of the appropriateness or suitability of particular care services provided to people with disabilities.

"I'm in contact with the HSE and my staff in the Department of Health to ensure that this happens and that a proper audit is done, so this will be monitored very, very closely and I will act on it," he said.

The Department of Health published a landmark review of disability services in 2012, 'The Value for Money and Policy Review of Disability Services in Ireland'.

The review proposed fundamental change away from the present system which it described as being predominantly one of group-based care - recommending instead an approach based around the person and the supports they need.

Speaking on This Week, Inclusion Ireland's Mr Connolly said that he believes there has been little change in the four years since the report was published.

"The supports and services to persons with a disability are generally provided through a number of service providers and a handful of service providers would receive in excess of 40% of the €1.4bn that is spent [annually] on disability services. And they tend to be quite institutionalised approaches, quite segregated from the community," Mr Connolly said.

"The Government's own report - the Value For Money report - has identified that the model of service provision in Ireland for persons with a disability is not meeting their needs, they have no choice and control, they're segregated from the community, they're not leading fulfilling lives.

"So one of the big challenges facing the Government and the Minister is to find a way to leverage that money more towards an individual's needs - and supporting individuals to live a life in the community," said Mr Connolly.

Mr McGrath echoed this view that there had not been enough progress on the Value For Money review.

"My personal view is that I am discovering that a lot of things weren't tackled - so as far as I am concerned, not enough has been done.

"I'm in the job now in the region of six months and I have set myself short-term targets that all moneys secured by me from the Minister for Finance and Minister for Public Expenditure ... [are] spent on the person with the disability and for services for them. They're my priority in my role as the new minister."

In a statement to This Week, the HSE said that a public sector recruitment embargo has affected auditing and monitoring of service providers in the disability sector.

The HSE said it reviews services regularly with its providers under Service Agreements (SA) and "takes account of individuals leaving the service as well as new entrants to the service in calculating the funding due to each organisation".

"Under this process, the HSE engages with service providers on a regular basis regarding the delivery of services outlined in the SA.

In relation to monitoring, there is ongoing work between the HSE and service providers to further develop their capabilities in this area. This work is continuing and will be stepped up in 2017," the statement continued.

"In addition, audit and monitoring of the service received by individual service users is carried out by occupational guidance advisers. A significant number of these positions are currently vacant due to the recent employment moratorium," the statement added.