CEOs of leading not-for-profit disability organisations have come together to highlight a growing crisis in the sector following more than a decade of underfunding and being forced to meet the cost of a huge growth in regulation. The organisations are calling for urgent Government action to help secure the future of their services.
The CEOs, who head up State-funded not-for-profit bodies known as Section 39 organisations, gathered at Buswell’s Hotel in Dublin for the launch of a report commissioned by Rehab Group called: ‘Who Cares?’ which highlights the crisis being faced by organisations providing disability services and makes recommendations to secure their future. Section 39 organisations are grant-aided by the HSE to provide services mainly in the health and social services arena. The report focuses on the challenges being faced by the eight largest Section 39 providers, whose current combined annual funding is in the region of €430m, and who provide residential, respite and day services to vulnerable people, many of whom are wholly reliant on these services.
The eight organisations who took part in the research are: Rehab Group, Irish Wheelchair Association, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, Enable Ireland, Ability West, Western Care Association, Kerry Parents and Friends Association, and St. Joseph’s Foundation.
The organisations, who provide services to 20,000 people, and employ a total of 8,000 staff, say the combined cost of meeting regulation in 2017 amounted to between half a million and €1.5 million for each of the organisations, and yet no additional funding to meet this need was provided.
The CEOs added that for more than ten years they have been struggling to meet these costs via now-depleted reserves or money fundraised to purchase, for example, assistive technologies or transport means to improve the lives of the people it serves. The group say such a funding gap is unsustainable and is proving a threat to essential services.
All those who took part in the research said they were not being resourced by the HSE to meet the expected level of service delivery. They also called out the fact that they are not permitted by the funder to display on a service arrangement that they are operating at a deficit, which is contrary to good financial practice.
The group is calling on the Government to provide funding for the full cost of service provision, for meeting compliance requirements, as well as a new model of funding to be put in place to ensure that services can continue to be provided to the 20,000 people they serve.
Mo Flynn CEO of Rehab Group said: “The independent, not-for-profit sector, which provides vital services to many thousands of people faces an uncertain future. The sector is at a crossroads and is in crisis. Ultimately, it is the people the sector serves, our most vulnerable members of society, who are suffering in a climate besieged by staff attrition, underfunding and the cost of overly bureaucratic regulation. We are being asked to manage a very significant demand for accountability and compliance, which is welcome, but meeting the requirements of regulation without the funding to meet those demands is pushing us into unsustainability. We simply cannot continue to meet these costs and maintain service levels,” she said.
The report has a series of recommendations to address the crisis in the sector including
- Pay the full cost of delivery of services – The State must pay the full cost of the delivery of services to organisations providing ‘ancillary’ services, rather than a percentage of the cost, which inevitably grows deficits and threatens vital services, putting our most vulnerable people at risk.
- The creation of a new model of funding – New consideration to be given to a more structured model of commissioning designed to meet emerging needs and underpinned by both collaboration and a broader definition of accountability.
- A junior minister role to be created for the sector – it is recommended that the Government needs to take a decisive step and create a junior ministerial portfolio for the community and not-for-profit sectors, to be located as a distinct office/unit within the Department of the Taoiseach.
- Multi-annual funding system – Move to a system of multi-annual funding with a focus on person-centred as well as financial outcomes.
- Introduce intelligent regulation– The development of a less complex and more intelligent, integrated and streamlined accountability system which would eliminate duplication, with the core administrative costs required being funded by State.
CEO of the Irish Wheelchair Association Rosemary Keogh said in the past 10 years she has seen the funding IWA receives for providing vital services to people with physical disabilities on behalf of the State, ‘reduce and then stand still’ which is threatening IWA’s future.
“In the same period, the costs associated with delivering these services has increased significantly – driven primarily by a significant rise in necessary, but unfunded regulatory and compliance requirements. Throughout this period, IWA has maintained the level and quality of its services by subsidising State funding for these services with over €8m drawn from our own reserves. Those reserves are now depleted and IWA’s future financial sustainability is under threat and the two million hours of vital services we provide annually to people with disabilities are at risk. In the year that the Government has ratified UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we expect our Government to show long-term commitment to the organisations so many of its citizens depend on.”
Western Care Association provides supports to children and adults with intellectual disability, autism and associated disabilities. Its CEO, Bernard O’Regan, said the past decade of austerity continues to limit its ability to meet the urgent support needs of people in its residential and respite services, therapy services and home supports for children with autism.
“As a service provider, it often seems that we are the last to be considered when capital developments are to be funded, emergency service needs to be met or deficits must be funded. Urgent government action is needed to address these issues and to ensure a vibrant, innovative, valuable and essential community and voluntary sector is supported, nurtured and developed, in the best interest of people with disabilities,” he said.
Mo Flynn continued: “The contribution of not-for-profits to our economy and the gap they fill in a lacking State provision is vastly underestimated. All we are looking for is a seat at the table so we can work in partnership and amplify the social impact of our organisations and do the very best for the people we serve. “
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