THE Health and Social Care Board is under fire after it failed to properly inform disabled people and their carers about a meeting to discuss their needs.
Bangor woman Isobelle Hamilton, whose daughter is severely disabled, said she and other parents were unhappy at being given less than 48 hours' notice about the meeting at the Signal Centre of Business Excellence in the town.
The public consultation, called by the Health and Social Care Board, took place on Friday. Isobelle said that due to the late notification, carers, who often have to arrange travel times in advance, were unable to attend.
Isobelle said that the handling of the meeting fell into a pattern that has seen poor communication between carers and public health bodies.
"We don't see any change, we were told it could take years before anything is done. They can sit and discuss these issues, meanwhile we have to struggle on.
"How can they call that meeting a public consultation when the number of carers present were outnumbered by politicians and members of health bodies?"
Isobelle said that the HSBC had apologised and will be re-scheduling the meeting.
Strangford Alliance Party MLA Kieran McCarthy, who has a disabled child and chairs the Stormont Health Committee, spoke about the timing.
"This is totally unacceptable. I would have thought that whoever was organising the meeting would make sure that there was enough time and publicity so that the people that matter would be there to voice their concern and let the health bodies be aware of what their needs were before they can make any decisions."
He welcomed the decision to re-schedule the meeting but added: "I can initially understand the disappointment of everyone who thought that they were left out. It's vital for all of the health services and agencies to make sure that the general public are made fully aware of what's happening and be inclusive in their deliberations."
Friday's consultation coincided with a private members' bill read at Stormont on Monday. This bill argues for an increase in facilities and provisions for disabled people, in order to "facilitate their integration into the community."
A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board said it regrets that some carers did not receive adequate notice of the meeting. "This public consultation meeting was one of a series of events across Northern Ireland to seek the views of a range of stakeholders on a regional model for day opportunities for adults with a learning disability.
"The public consultation runs until 5pm on Monday, December 9, and the Board is encouraging everyone with an interest in the day opportunities model available to adults with a learning disability to make sure they respond with their views.
"The consultation document considers a regional model which sets out the need to both improve day centres for people with complex healthcare and behavioural support needs, and community based day opportunities."
For more information about the consultation or to send a response, email firstname.lastname@example.org; telephone 028 9032 1313; or visit www.hscboard.hscni.net/consult