Peter Landy and Mark Dearey have called out the cuts in funding.
The ability of local charities to provide vital respite services to people with disabilities have been severely hampered by vicious cuts to National Lottery funding – money that the organisations rely on annually to support much-needed respite services.
According to figures obtained by the Dundalk Democrat, Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland has seen their funding slashed in recent times.
Between 2016 and 2017, SHBI saw funding cut nationally to the tune of €58,599.15. Funding is allocated by Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs), with the local Louth/Meath branch part of CHO8 – alongside Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath.
That area saw the biggest single drop in funding – with SBHI services in that area hit by funding being cut from almost €27,000 in 2016 to just €3,000 a year later.
Funding received annually pays for the work in the following year due to it being paid so late in the calendar year.
In 2016, 14 service users from the Louth/Meath branch area attended respite breaks facilitated by SBHI. These include adult breaks, teen getaways, kids respite and SHINE summer camps. In addition, a number of service users attended social events organised by the association.
Last year, these numbers increased with 14 people from Louth/Meath making use of respite breaks – vital for both the person living with disabilities and their families – while even more people attended social events. The increase in need comes as funding has been slashed.
According to SBHI, they say €3,000 in funding allocated for 2018 means they can send at most two people from Louth and Meath on respite this year.
Speaking to the Dundalk Democrat, SBHI national chairperson Peter Landy, an Ardee native, said the funding cuts will have a major impact on carers.
"Family carers rely on respite provided by charities, such as SBHI, particularly in Louth/Meath as the amount of respite available is very low," he said.
"For many of our SBHI members, the only respite they get during the year is through our respite programme – and this is their only opportunity to spend time away from home.
"It is odd to me how funding can become available to other sectors while in the midst of a respite crisis, funding in this sector continues to be savagely cut."
The financial hit to the charity comes as government spending in other areas such as sport hits all-time highs. Last year, the Sports Capital Grant programme was doubled – going from €30 million to €60 million – on the foot of an unprecedented amount of applications.
In the Ireland 2040 announcement last month, a further €100 million was earmarked for sports funding over the next four years.
But Landy believes that in the midst of a respite care crisis, the government must ensure respite services are seen as a priority.
This week, Green Party councillor Mark Dearey (pictured) called on the HSE to immediately reverse the decision to cut funding for the Louth/Meath branch of Down Syndrome Ireland’s Early Intervention Therapy Programme by 60%.
"Spending on Early Intervention is money well spent when it comes to children with particular needs, intellectual or physical disabilities,” Dearey told The Democrat.
"Early intervention is much better than late intervention. Cutting an early intervention fund is going to impair their chances later in life - and their families that support them as they learn new skills and seek to develop.”
Dearey says he has been working with his fellow Dundalk Municipal District councillor Maeve Yore on the issue.
"We see it as regressive, unnecessary and this has been an ongoing battle. This issue has come up in the past. The HSE seems determined to cut this intervention,” Dearey added.
In January, the local branch of Down Syndrome Ireland said they were left "shocked and disappointed” by the decision to make “savage cuts” to funding - from €25,000 in 2016 to €10,000 in 2017.
52 preschool children who live with Down Syndrome in the Louth and Meath area are currently enrolled on the programme.
According to the branch, the programme costs €75,000 to run annually.