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Hussey furious over lack of answers on £8m underspend

By Donna Deeney

Published 11/11/2016

Questions: Michelle O’Neill denied taking too long to respond to queries
Questions: Michelle O’Neill denied taking too long to respond to queries

The Health Minister has been accused of dragging her heels over questions about an £8m underspend in services for people with learning disabilities across the Western Trust.

The shortfall came to light earlier this year during a review by the health watchdog, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.

Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey accused Michelle O'Neill of deliberately keeping politicians and families in the dark by failing to respond within the normal timeframe to issues he raised in the Assembly.

"The sheer scale of the underspend in startling," he said. "Anger is growing as further details are being pieced together... and the main reason is the condescending treatment being shown by the minister.

"Her behaviour and continuing refusal to answer questions in a timely manner is disgraceful.

But the minister denied she had been slow to answer Mr Hussey's queries.

"I have been committed to finding a resolution to this issue and to working with the families and the trust to ensure that the services are being delivered on the ground," she said.

"Progress has been made, with increased investment of £3m in adult community learning disability services now in place and further £5m planned.

"I met recently with representatives of local families and carers to discuss their concerns.

"I completely understand the concerns and frustrations of families, and I am determined to ensure that a new investment plan is developed with their support.

"My department will continue to oversee and provide support to this process and I will continue to take an active and personal interest."

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