Time to Move on from Congregated Settings: A Strategy for Inclusion

“Congregated settings” is the jargon term used in our health services to describe facilities where more than ten disabled people live. They range in size from ten up to several hundred, and, apparently, from excellent to very poor. In 2007 HSE set up a “Working Group on Congregated Settings” to ‘develop a national plan and change programme for transferring people with disabilities living in institutions into the community’ (Dail records – John Maloney 6th July 2010 in answer to Phil Hogan).
On July 12th 2010, under the headline “Institutions for disabled should be closed down, says report”, Carl O’Brien of the Irish Times, wrote :-
“ALL INSTITUTIONS for people with intellectual disabilities should be closed down within the next seven years because they are in breach of residents’ basic rights.
That is the main conclusion of an unpublished report by the working group established by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to examine conditions in “congregated settings”, or institutions with 10 residents or more.
The 72 institutions, which cost the State just under €500 million each year, accommodate some 4,000 people. Most are run by voluntary organisations and religious groups. The report recommends replacing them with supported or independent placements in the community.
The report, which is expected to be published in the coming months, found major variations in the cost of care across the congregated settings it surveyed. The average cost per resident was €115,000 a year, while costs ranged between €46,000 and €385,500 per resident in different units.”
The large charities providing services, and HSE, seem to have adopted a pre-emptive strategy. They will build lots of housing for people with disabilities, and fill it with their own long-term residents. This secures the long-term viability of the services, and will, I am sure, improve the conditions for the residents. However, is it what the residents want? Has anyone asked them?
Noelin Fox (a PhD student in Galway, writes “Are we creating new institutions for people with disabilities?” Based on an analysis of our obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Fox argues that parking large numbers of disabled people in campus settings is simply inadequate. It is hard to disagree.
This policy response is proceeding, largely using taxpayers funds, but there does not seem to have been any published economic, or human rights, evaluation of the new developments. It’s not known whether the report, apparently entitled “Time to Move on from Congregated Settings: A Strategy for Inclusion” has done such an evaluation, but they have considered campus settings, as well as dormitory settings in their work.
What is driving the large service providers? It’s possible that they are running scared of the idea of individual budgeting. This strategy would do away with the current focus on large line budgets for single institutions, replacing these with an individual budget held by the disabled individual, or their guardian where necessary. These individual budgets would be used to provide whatever services the disabled person chooses to help them live their own lives. Budgets would be set annually on the basis of an individual needs assessment for the client, rather than the current very cumbersome, and costly, clinical assessments. The implications of this for the existing large scale disability services are profound. They would need to reconfigure very extensively just to survive. However, a large number of new jobs would be created, so the state might get much better value for the same money.
The report remains closely held three weeks before the election. One wonders why?

This entry was posted in Health.

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