“Another 20 years before all disabled people can live in a community”
Moving away from collective care for people with intellectual disabilities will take another 20 years due to the slow pace of change, an Oireachtas committee said.
In 2012, the HSE launched a report aimed at enabling people with disabilities to move from large institutions to their homes in the community with the necessary supports in place.
Speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Disability Issues, Professor Roy McConkey, of the Institute of Nursing and Health Research at the University of Ulster, said there were more than 4 000 people with intellectual disabilities living in collective settings in Ireland in 2007.
By 2017, that had fallen to just under a third, he added.
Professor McConkey said there were consequences associated with living in a group, such as a greater risk of abuse, a greater risk of contracting disease and a younger age of death.
Professor Gautam Gulati, University of Limerick, expressed concern over the high proportion of people in prison, homeless and in the direct care system with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities.
Almost one in three people in Irish prisons test positive for intellectual disability, Professor Gulati said, while the rate of mental illness in prison is four times that of the general population.
“We have to make sure that Irish prisons do not appear as places of assembly,” he added.
Disability activist Annmarie Flanagan said there was a need for a “paradigm shift” to see people with disabilities as rights holders.
Lynn Fitzpatrick, whose brother Bernard has lived in a residential setting for 40 years, said there should be a choice for these people, including the option of living in an institution.
Bernard has lived a “full and meaningful life,” she said, and a general policy to remove these parameters “has failed some people badly.”