Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he cannot give a date for the resumption of day services for people with intellectual disabilities. 

The services have been closed for more than three months since Covid-19 restrictions were introduced.

Since then, families of people with intellectual disabilities have been caring for their loved ones at home. 

When the latest Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, there were numerous calls for the Health Service Executive to publish guidelines to enable day service providers to reopen, which the HSE did yesterday evening.

Inclusion Ireland, the National Association for People with an Intellectual Disability, said the 72-page document is non-committal on reopening timelines, and there are indications that some day service staff, who have been redeployed elsewhere, will not return immediately. 

Speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said capital budgets will be provided to upgrade buildings, and staff will be redeployed to these services and in some cases new staff hired.

"All that is going to take a bit of time," he said.

"Services won't all resume at the same time, on the same day. In some places, they might be back sooner than others." 


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He was responding to calls from Labour leader Alan Kelly to announce dates for the reopening of these services by 20 July.

Mr Kelly said he had spoken with a number of people with intellectual disabilities last night and they all feel that they are being let down.

"These people are our people. They deserve in this Republic to be treated with dignity and respect. They deserve to have their services brought back.

"They are the most vulnerable and they are regressing.

"We are opening pubs on July 20th and I am looking forward to going for a pint myself. But these services by the next phase of reopening deserve to know when their services are going to happen," he said.

Mr Varadkar said he understands that "families are at their wits end, people who had been making good progress are now regressing, and that is something that is of enormous concern to all of us and we are very keen to get those services back as soon as is possible."

Inclusion Ireland Chief Executive Enda Egan has said it is crucially important that daycare service for people with disabilities get back up and running, and at full capacity, very quickly.

He said families around the country are at burn out level.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said the Government is not putting a capital fund in place to allow service providers to search for bigger premises or make modifications to current premises that would enable them to bring more people to the premises, while meeting social distancing requirements.

Such a fund, he said, is available to schools and older person services.

In addition, he said, there is no timeline for when staff, who were redeployed to residential services, will be able to return to day care centres.

Mr Egan said the State has a reputation of pushing the care provision back onto the family and this cannot be allowed to happen.

He said there are now four ministers with a brief extending across the disability issue and appealed to them as a collective to sit down with the three leaders of the political parties.

There is, he said, a real opportunity for the government to realign their expenditure in line with the social issues that people want dealt with.

Minister of State with responsibility for Disability Anne Rabbitte has welcomed the publication of the HSE guidance and acknowledged the many challenges experienced by individuals and their families over this difficult time. 

Additional Reporting Mary Regan