Houses of the OIREACHTAS

Selected records and documents from the Irish Parliament and Senate

  • Dáil Éireann Debate 4th October 2016 (Topical Debate "Services for People with Disabilities", Oireachtas link)
    • First time that St Mary of the Angels was discussed
    • Deputies Martin Ferris and Danny Healy-Rae brought up the issue of a possible closure
    • Minister Finian McGrath: "St. John of God service in Kerry has been identified as one of the priority sites for de-congregation. The HSE is committed to working with St. John of God services and the families to transition 17 residents in ward- style accommodation from the current unsuitable accommodation on campus to more appropriate settings in the local community. (...) On 18 September 2016, a family forum meeting took place at which the HIQA inspections and de-congregation were discussed again. Concerns were raised and many family members were worried that their relative would not be suitable for community living. It was agreed that a family representative group would be set up and a meeting with the senior management of St. John of God Kerry services would be scheduled. In total, 78 people currently residing on the Beaufort campus will ultimately be supported over a number of years to move to more suitable accommodation in the community, depending on available funding and on sourcing suitable houses in the community.
  • Dáil Éireann Debate 18th October 2016 (Topical Debate "Services for People with Disabilities", Oireachtas link)
    • Deputies John Brassil and Michael Healy-Rae brought up St Mary of the Angels again
    • John Brassil: "I accept there is a policy and a move away from congregated settings. I accept it is good for certain people to go into the community. In St. Mary of the Angels we have what I would consider a jewel in the crown and we cannot allow a one size fits all policy to be the cause of closure for it."
    • Minister Finian McGrath: "Currently, 2,725 people live in congregated settings and our objective is to reduce this figure by one third by 2021 and ultimately to eliminate all congregated settings. (...) HSE representatives met public representatives from Kerry yesterday and were clear in stating that St. Mary of the Angels will close over time."
    • John Brassil: "What about the residents, advocates and their families who do not want to move? What about those people who are happy and have been so as long as they have been living there, in this idyllic setting and who have a wonderful life in a wonderful community? What about those people? They have been lobbying us. They are in existence; they are real people but we are now saying to them that their future is uncertain."
    • Michael Healy-Rae: "One of the most upsetting things that the Minister of State has said is that he wants to take the residents out of that place, that home and integrate them into the community but the community they are already in is a community in itself. It is a wonderful, beautiful setting where an awful lot, if not the majority, of the residents are happy, safe and content and they want to be left there."
    • Minister Finian McGrath: "Of course I totally accept the important point that not all people residing at St. Mary of the Angels in Beaufort will be suitable for transitioning to community living. (...) I will not force anybody into a situation he or she does not want to be in."
  • Dáil Éireann Parliamentary Question 28409/16 by John Brassil TD, 4th October. Answer received 18th October from HSE: RE: PQ 28409/16
    • Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Health the position of the Health Service Executive with regard to the closure of a home (details supplied); the reason this closure has taken place; if it is due to a lack of funding to meet Health Information and Quality Authority requirements to provide the necessary funding to St. John Of God community services to bring the accommodation up to standard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28409/16]
    • From the Answer Letter: "“A Time to Move on from Congregated Settings” (2011) is the policy which recognises the need to support people with disabilities to move from large congregated settings to community living. The aim of this policy is outlined as “ordinary lives in ordinary places”.
      In line with this policy, St John of God Services campus in Beaufort has been identified as one of a small
      number of priority sites for de-congregation. (...) The HSE is committed to working with St John of God Services to transition 17 residents from the current unsuitable accommodation on campus to more appropriate settings in the local community. In 2016 this was identified as one of a number of priority sites for decongregation nationally further to being highlighted by HIQA as a high risk area. (...) The HSE will continue to work with St. John of Gods to address any concerns raised by families. I can assure you that the plans being put in place are not informed by a lack of funding. The guiding principle and sole aim is to ensure that the best interests of each resident in St Mary of the Angels are provided for; that they enjoy a better quality of life and have the best opportunity for inclusion in the community."
  • Dáil Éireann Parliamentary Questions 29241/16, 29242/16, 29243/16 by Gino Kenny TD. Answer received 25th October from HSE:  RE: PQs 29241/16, 29242/16, 29243/16
    • Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Health if he will make the funding available to St. John of God Kerry services in order that they can build the required additional houses on the existing site in Beaufort, County Kerry, according to HIQA requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29241/16]
    • Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Health if he will officially recognise St. Mary of the Angels, Beaufort, County Kerry, as a community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29242/16]
    • Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Health when residents are moved out of a place such as St. Mary of the Angels, the body or person which has ownership of the site and houses left behind; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29243/16]
    • The answer from the HSE ignores questions 29241/16 and 29242/16 and has the following to say about the first question: "In light of the definition of a “congregated setting”, it would not be appropriate to build
      further houses on the existing site at Beaufort as these houses would be campus-based and not in line with the recommendations made in the policy. (...) The aim of supporting people to move from residential centres is to support people to fully participate in local communities. This is best achieved when people live in smaller groups and can be more easily integrated into local communities. Community living isabout more than accommodation. It is about who people live with and their opportunity to be part of a normal local community, “ordinary lives, in ordinary places”."
  • Dáil Éireann Debate 26th October 2016 (Leaders' Questions, Oireachtas link)
    • Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: "I agree that there are people in institutions who should not be there and who should be integrated into our community. However, there were 72 institutions which were, in fact, living breathing communities. (...) What is the answer for the young parents of today who have children for whom they are not able to cater at home? There is no place for them to go while we are closing down centres of excellence. (...) We are taking for granted that this report is excellent, right and perfect. It is not. It is not addressing the problems people in the future who will have profound physical and mental disabilities will face. We need to have a proper place for them to go to. We are breaking up that system for no good reason."
    • Taoiseach Enda Kenny: "With regard to St. Mary of the Angels, it is important to say that there is no imminent closure involved here. The HSE is consulting with the families and local communities to find the best solution for each individual. I understand that the St. John of God services have acknowledged that communications could and should have been better in this regard so that everybody knew what was involved. It is important, however, to point out that it is the policy of Government and the HSE to move on from congregated settings in the best interests of individuals and to do so in a planned and phased manner. (...) Some people have an extreme range of issues and some may find accommodation on the existing campus. As I said, there is no immediate or imminent closure of this institution. There will be proper, full and thorough consultation in the interests of each of the individuals concerned before any decision is made."
  • Dáil Éireann Parliamentary Question 33220/16 by Brendan Griffin, 3rd November 2016 (Oireachtas link)
    • Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health when he will visit a home (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33220/16]
    • Minister Finian McGrath: "St John of God Services in Kerry has been identified as one of the priority sites for de-congregation. The HSE is committed to working with St John of God Services to transition 17 residents in ward style accommodation from the current unsuitable accommodation on campus to more appropriate settings in the local community. (...) The focus of the HSE has been on enhancing the quality of life of residents and highlighting the residents who would most obviously benefit from the opportunity to move to community living. In doing so, the HSE are recognising that for some individuals with significant disabilities, this move presents greater challenges and will not be considered for some time."
  • Dáil Éireann Parliamentary Question 51971/18 by Michael Healy-Rae, 11th December 2018
    • Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if a matter will be addressed regarding the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51971/18] 
    • Minister with responsibility for Older People, Jim Daly, stresses the "importance of developing a wider choice of appropriate housing options for older people suited to their needs" and aims to "... rebalance the care model away from residential care to supporting older people to remain living independently at home for longer." But also: "... there will always be a cohort of people for whom residential nursing home care is the most appropriate option."
    • However Minister Finian McGrath does not afford people with disabilities the range of options that his colleague is giving to older people. Instead he is focused on implementing "a new model of support in the community, moving people from Congregated settings to the community in line with Government policy." And: "The Programme for Partnership Government contains a commitment to continue to move people with disabilities out of congregated settings, to enable them to live independently and to be included in the community.  The objective is to reduce this figure by one-third by 2021 and ultimately, to eliminate all congregated settings." - Here the minister is clearly eliminating one choice (i.e. residential nursing home setting / congregated setting) that is available for older people.
  • Dáil Éireann Leader's Questions, 6th March 2019
    • Deputy Micheál Martin: "There is a crisis across the disability services sector in providing access to full-time residential care, particularly for adults with disabilities, as well as to respite care, home care and shared services. (...provides many examples...)"
    • The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: Gives speech and equates 'Congregated Settings' with 'Institutions': "We are making a big difference. For example, consider the people with intellectual disabilities who have to live in congregated settings in institutions. There are 2,200 fewer people living in institutional congregated settings. They have been moved out into homes in the community, which is a big change. We have a multi-annual plan to continue that programme to move as many people as possible out of the old-fashioned institutions into much more appropriate settings in the community."
  • Oireachtas Joint Committee on Disability Matters debate, 20th April 2021
    • Topic: National Disability Inclusion Strategy: Discussion (Resumed)
    • Mr John Dolan: "On the Time to Move On from Congregated Settings report, as Ms Dempsey said at the start,
      it should be history by now; it should have been done. We are talking about approximately 2,900 people. The undertakers of Ireland will solve that problem if it is not taken by the scruff of the neck."
    • Ms Lorraine Dempsey: "As Mr. Dolan said, our undertakers are partially responsible for sorting out the Time to Move on from Congregated Settings strategy. They always have been. In the period since 2012, when the strategy was launched, over 1,000 people have passed on rather than moving out to live within the community." - The source for the stated figure of over 1,000 people was not provided nor was its veracity questioned during the meeting.
    • A member of the SMOA Parents and Relatives Association sent a Letter of Complaint to the committee chairman about the hurtful reference to undertakers of Ireland: "To speak so callously of people, like my son, to suggest that they are a problem that will be taken care of by undertakers was profoundly hurtful to me."
    • Senator Ivana Bacik raised the hardship and trauma that can be experienced as a result of decongregation: "A charity closed a residential service that operated in St. Mary’s Centre Telford, which is located in my own area. The closure had an immensely hard and difficult impact on the lives of the people, mostly women, who had been resident for so long and it was their only home. There was no clear alternative in place. I do not know if there is anything we can do, as legislators, so that there are proper step-down and other supports in place where congregated settings are closed, especially for people who have been resident in them for many years and who may be very vulnerable and really open to terrible trauma through closure."
      (This point was not responded to or taken up by any other participants of the meeting.)
  • Dáil Éireann debate 21st April 2021Mental Health Surge Capacity: Motion [Private Members]
    • While this motion was not about St Mary of the Angels or the decongregation policy, SMOA was mentioned nevertheless by two Kerry deputies.
    • Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: "The Saint John of God group has been operating a very valuable service in St. Mary of the Angels in mid-Kerry, which has been looking after children with mental and physical disabilities since 1965. The property was donated free of charge to the Franciscan Sisters by the Doyle family in 1965. The congregation operated it up until 2005 when it was handed over to the Saint John of God group. This group is now giving up saying that, as it was not properly funded by the HSE, it cannot continue. A rumour has gone out, however, that the property will now be sold by the Saint John of God group. It would be particularly hurtful to the patients in the centre and their parents if it was to be sold. I ask the Minister of State to ensure it is never sold and that it will be kept by the HSE, or whatever Department or group is put in charge, when the Saint John of God group gives up at the end of the year. There are 64 patients in the centre at present in addition to the trained staff who look after them. I appeal to the Minister of State not to let this property be sold to anyone and for it to be kept for the patients who need care."
    • Deputy Michael Healy-Rae:  "I will also raise the situation in respect of the St. Mary of the Angels home in Beaufort in County Kerry because it has to do with different types of both mental and physical health. I have been a lifelong supporter of the service, first of all as a representative of the Killorglin electoral area for many years when I worked daily with the parents from around Kerry and beyond who have availed of the excellent service provided in St. Mary of the Angels. To be very clear, St. Mary of the Angels is a centre of excellence when it comes to taking care of people's mental, intellectual and physical problems and difficulties. There are parents and families who dearly appreciate the care they have been getting there. There is a worry in County Kerry that the centre is going to be closed down by stealth. This worry arises from the fact that new admissions to the centre are not being allowed. It is a beautiful facility. I know every single solitary one of the staff members who work there and their families. It is a vocation for them, and was a vocation for those before them, to take care of the residents of that home.

      This Government has a policy of not allowing congregated settings and that one shoe fits all sizes. It believes it is good for people to be taken out of this centre of excellence and to be put out into the community, but that is not necessarily so. It can actually be bad for them. I am pleading on my knees for the Government not to allow St. Mary of the Angels to be closed down by stealth. It must be kept open. It is the right thing to do."

  • Dáil Éireann Parliamentary Question 22023/21by Holly Cairns, 28th April 2021
    • Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Health the steps he is taking in response to the plans to sell off facilities for persons with physical and intellectual disabilities (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.
    • The answer supplied by HSE Cork/Kerry Community Healthcare includes this statement: "I wish to advise that your concerns regarding the lands and facilities in relation to St. Mary’s of the Angels will be brought to the attention of the National group which was set up by the National Disability Strategy office. CKCH is not aware of any plans to sell off lands in connection with St. Marys of the Angels."
  • Oireachtas Joint Committee on Disability Matters debate, 1st July 2021
    • Opening statement by Lynn Fitzpatrick
    • Full 2hr video on the Oireachtas website here.
    • Written record of the discussions here.
    • "I put it to you that St. Mary of the Angels is a community in its own right with a proven track record of success spanning six decades. It is a residential care model that should be researched and replicated, not broken up and sold to fund community living. In closing I ask the Committee to support my request that St. Mary of the Angels be immediately exempted from the Time to Move On policy which should never have targeted it in the first place, let alone designated it a pilot and priority sitefor decongregation."
    • Please watch opening statement and highlights from discussion below: