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Disability campaigners on 72-hour sit-out slam nursing home upgrade plans

Published 16/09/2015

A group of disabled people and campaigners take part in a three-day sit-out at the gates of Government Buildings in Dublin
A group of disabled people and campaigners take part in a three-day sit-out at the gates of Government Buildings in Dublin

A group of disabled people on a 72-hour sit-out at Government Buildings have accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of delivering a "kick in the teeth" over new care home funding.

After Mr Kenny brought morning coffee and offered to hear their concerns, the campaigners branded a 450 million euro plan to upgrade nursing homes as outdated.

Martin Naughton, who is leading the People with Disabilities campaign, vowed to "lie wherever it takes" to get the message across that they want independent living in the community.

"The street is a very cold place to be," he said.

"We shouldn't have to do this. But this is what we have been driven to. We have to fight for our recognition as independent and equal citizens of Ireland. We have to camp at the doors of power to be heard."

After spending the first night on the street, wheelchair user Mr Naughton challenged the Taoiseach face-to-face as he arrived for a cabinet meeting.

Mr Kenny is expected to bring the protesters into Government Buildings to hear their proposals on independent living and how funding can be directed for individuals to make their own decisions on supports and services.

The 450 million euro funding is being earmarked for the refurbishment and replacement of state-owned nursing homes for older people, care centres for people with disabilities.

In many older institution-style buildings watchdogs have consistently raised concerns about the size of bedrooms, mixed wards, bathrooms, the number of residents in a room and emergency escapes.

Mr Naughton hit out: " Putting an extra 450 million into an outdated system is a complete kick in the teeth to us and to what we are looking for."

The Taoiseach on Tuesday told the protesters he would be happy to hear practical solutions from them on funding for disability services and supports.

Mr Naughton, who said he was spurred into the street protest following repeated reports of poor conditions and care in homes, said he was disgusted by the Government's plans.

"We know how things can be improved and it is not by pumping money into residential centres," he said.

"We, and our families, can make decisions for ourselves about the best services we need to live our lives, without reliance on the discretion of others.

"This is why it is so important that Ireland catches up with the modern world and moves to a system of self-directed living supports and direct payments for people with disabilities, instead of burying more tax payers money in services that are dysfunctional and too often degrading."

The People with Disabilities group claimed more than 68% of people who use disability services endure poor quality and are very dissatisfied and that in the last two years 93% of disability residential centres inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority have failed some standards.

The campaign also highlighted other areas the Government must address to support people with disabilities to help them lead free, independent lives.

Mr Naughton called for the introduction of direct payments, self-directed living supports and the protection of personal assistants with a move away from residential care and congregated settings where possible.

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