24 January 2011

Irish Examiner: State 'exported' 55 people with intellectual disabilities, report says

As an Irish citizen, I was utterly shocked when I read the headline in today's Irish Examiner: State 'exported' 55 people with intellectual disabilities, report says. The story is by Jennifer Hough. The paper's second editorial comments on the story: Intellectual disability - Hypocrisy of the HSE. The HSE(logo above), Health Service Executive,  was set up in 2005 to replace the regional health boards. The Irish Examiner editorial is not its main one, which is about the Green Party leaving the Irish government, which is about to fall.

Here is the text of Jennifer Hough's news story. I've highlighted some parts and added [comments].

State ‘exported’ 55 people with intellectual disabilities, report says

By Jennifer Hough

Monday, January 24, 2011

PEOPLE with intellectual disabilities have been "exiled" to agencies outside of Ireland for the past 30 years and continue to be "ignored" in the provision of mental health services, according to a report.

The damning study — published to coincide with the fifth anniversary of A Vision for Change, a policy document drawn up to reform mental health services in Ireland — concludes the provision of mental health services for people with an intellectual disability (ID) continues to require "immediate prioritisation" by the HSE as it has not been afforded "any discernible concern".

Excluded, Expelled and Exported: The citizens we’ve ignored and those we’ve exiled, which is published by The College of Psychiatry of Ireland, reveals that over the past 30 years at least €30 million has been spent on placing people in other jurisdictions. [Could not much of that money have been spent on making it possible to provide proper services in Ireland?]

It reveals 55 Irish people with an intellectual disability — some of whom have been in the placements for decades — are in specialist services outside of the state.

Some of those placements cost up to €300,000 annually. The latest figure is an increase of 20 people — or 57% — since A Vision for Change was published.

According to the report, the fact that 75% of the placements are in the North refutes the argument that there is not the critical mass for such specialist service provision here. [The 'North' refers to Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. At least they are in the same country, though in a different state, making it possible for their families and friends to visit them.]

Additionally, it is estimated at least 137 more people with intellectual disability require specialist residential services that are not available. The CPsychI maintains this is an "unacceptable and unsustainable" situation.

"As we export people with intellectual disability for placement and treatment, individual people and their families may get a service, but no level of national expertise builds up," the report states.

"Clearly, it is not rational or humane but rather ad hoc and inequitable and clearly, many people get no service at all."

The data comes from a HSE freedom of information request, which did not include information on people who had previously been placed out of the state and who had returned during or prior to 2010. [Note that the HSE had to be requested to release the information.] Therefore, the costs are likely to be under-estimated.

The data shows that the longest placement outside of Ireland is of a person who has been in the United States since 1981. [In other words, this person has been in exile for the last thirty years at the behest of the Irish Department of Health, the Irish taxpayer footing the bill. Would we accept such a situation for a person who didn't have an intellectual disability? How can this person, a citizen of Ireland, experience the opening word of Article 40 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Irish Constitution, says: All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law? How can that person and his or her family experience what Article 41 says: 2° The State, therefore, guarantees to protect the Family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State? Isn't the sending a person into permanent exile simply because he or she has an intelletual disability destroying that person's family, making it impossible for the members to realte to one another?]The cost of the placements differ dramatically, but the overall annual cost of placing all 55 people who are currently in residential care out of state is €5m.

The annual cost of placement for 20 individuals is less than €50,000.

For a further 20 individuals it is between €50,000 and €100,000.

In six cases the cost is €100,000-€200,000, in seven cases it is €200,000-€300,000 and in one case the annual cost is more than €300,000.

However, as the report’s authors point out, the "export of Irish citizens comes at a considerable financial cost as well as human cost" as placements outside of the state dislodge vulnerable people with an intellectual disability from their families and local communities. [See comments above.]

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, January 24, 2011.

Meb was a painter, he had an intellectual disability. He composed his work of art on the occasion of the first pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1971 after some one read him the Charter of the first Faith and Light pilgrimage.

What he did was very simple. A boat in which he put a number of figures. He painted twelve of them. Jesus must be sleeping somewhere in the bottom of the boat. Then there was the sun and the clouds. Meb was certainly very inspired. He could not count.

His idea : we are in a boat and we are travelling together. Sometimes the sea is rough, sometimes it’s dead calm, sometimes you need to row, and sometimes the wind blows in the sails .. Meb had understood all that.

Here is the caption that goes with the drawing :

“The clouds parted and Your light, oh Lord, shone down upon us.”


Christ Blessing the children, Nicolaes Maes, painted 1652-53

Last year it came to light that many children had died in the previous ten years while under the 'care' of the Irish State. Here is one report by Susan Mitchell in The Sunday Business Post on 23 May 2010: HSE believes 200 children died in care. One quotation from that story: A senior figure in the HSE told The Sunday Business Post that it still did not know the precise number of children that had died while in care, but it was feared that the true tally could be in the order of 200.


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