Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has been informed by Health Minister Leo Varadkar that the HSE has committed to carrying out a fundamental review of St Hilda’s services in Athlone to address the challenges currently facing the intellectual disability service-provider.
“I understand that the St Hilda’s review, described by the HSE as a ‘fundamental’ examination of services, will look at ways to develop sustainable services while also considering the current availability of resources. This is welcome news and is part of a simultaneous review being carried out at St Christopher’s Services in Longford.
“However, the outcome of this three month review must guarantee the protection of services against any future cuts.
“While this review is progressing, the HSE will work with the both organisations to address cash flow issues that they may encounter.
“I am pleased that the HSE is committed to stabilising the current financial position of both service-providers in order to protect the current level of service provision but we must remember that both reviews have come about because of the public outcry over the threat to vital intellectual disability services in Longford and Westmeath.
“Apart from significant fund-raising initiatives supplementing existing budgets, St Hilda’s and St Christopher’s provide exceptional value for money but more importantly exceptional services under very difficult circumstances and in the face of growing demand.”
Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said she was hopeful there would be some flexibility around a mandatory rule forcing the retirement of hundreds of soldiers after 21 years of service.
“I raised this matter in the Dáil today (Wednesday, November 13th) with Defence Minister Simon Coveney and impressed upon him the consequences of not relaxing this rule which applies to all privates and corporals who joined the army since 1994.
“This rule is due to take effect next year and I have had numerous representations regarding this issue from serving members attached to Custume Barracks in Athlone.
“Naturally, this matter is causing serious concern for soldiers and their families who have mortgage and family commitments and who have the necessary skills and fitness levels to continue to serve beyond the 21 year limit.
“Minister Coveney explained that the measure was introduced to make sure the force was physically fit for the rigours of overseas deployment but many of those who are being forced out would typically have been 19 or 20 when they joined the army. We are talking here about soldiers who are still fit and active and who are worried about what the future holds for them.
“PDFORRA is looking for a further review of this 21 year limit on these contracts and in the Dail today, the Minister informed me that significant progress had been made in its discussions with civil and military management; however, he said it was not possible for the parties to reach full agreement. As a result, the issue is now being referred to third party adjudication for a ruling. The Minister said it was expected this adjudication hearing would take place in the next few weeks following the exchange of submissions between the parties.
“Minister Coveney said in the Dáil today that those affected started off on a five-year contract and a great deal of flexibility had been shown in accommodating and extending their careers within the Defence Forces. I welcome the Minister’s understanding that the families concerned are facing very real difficulties and his expectation some flexibility would also be shown in this instance.”
Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has thanked Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister for special responsibility for Disability Kathleen Lynch for their support following an agreement from the HSE to provide the necessary resources to help offset the financial crisis at St Christopher’s Services.
“This is very welcome news but the commitment is part of a simultaneous three month review of services to be carried out by the HSE at both St Christopher’s in Longford and St Hilda’s in Athlone.
“I understand that both reviews will look at ways to develop sustainable services in the two organisations while also considering the current availability of resources.
“I am pleased that the HSE has committed to stabilising the current financial position in St Christopher’s in order to protect the current level of service provision and that both reviews have come about because of the public outcry over the threat to vital services in Longford and Westmeath.
“However, while this is good news for the foreseeable future, the campaign to protect these services will continue and these reviews must seek outcomes to guarantee the protection of services in both organisations against any future cuts.
“Today’s decision has come about through an intensive campaign carried out in both counties, involving not least the families, the service providers and the wider community.
“A lot of work has also been invested by local Oireachtas members to impress upon both Ministers Varadkar and Lynch the importance of addressing the funding crisis affecting intellectual disability services in the region. The two Ministers have received numerous communications to ensure that the concerns of service-users, their families and the service providers have been successfully listened to.
“Since the crisis emerged in both countries, I have made almost daily representations to Minister Varadkar and Lynch on these issues, making it clear that it is simply unacceptable that economics should get in the way of providing proper care for our most vulnerable in society.
“Apart from significant fund-raising initiatives, St Hilda’s and St Christopher’s provide exceptional value for money but more importantly exceptional services under very difficult circumstances and in the face of growing demand.”
Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that a drop of 8.4% in unemployment figures for Westmeath is a clear indication that the economic recovery is underway.
“This week we learned that the national live register rate has dropped to 11%, the lowest since 2009.
“This is extremely good news for the country as a whole but I am particularly pleased to see that the number of people out of work in the county has fallen by 8.4% since this time last year.
“This Government has been given the task of getting this country back on its feet and in the last number of weeks, we have had 170 new jobs announced in Westmeath and Longford.
“There is no doubt that there are still too many people out of work but it is encouraging to see that things are moving in the right direction.
“Live Register figures have been dropping for many months now, the Government’s plan is working but we know that there is still a long way to go.
“The progress that has been made is due to the hard work and sacrifice of Irish people, of people here in our local community.”
Fine Gael TD for Longford Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that C & D Foods’ expansion programme shows that County Longford has the people and resources to attract even more investment.
“The 70 new jobs created by C & D as part of a €15m investment programme is clearly a massive boost to Longford. But as Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said during his visit to the county on Friday, much more can be achieved for the county and we can build on the strengths of C & D.
“Deputy James Bannon and I continue to work with Minister Bruton in looking at ways to attract IDA-backed companies to Longford. These recent jobs announcements in Edgeworthstown and Athlone clearly show that the Midlands has the talent and skills base that companies are looking for.
“However, since my election to Dail Eireann, I have consistently said that developing our tourism products and our agri-food sector along with ensuring proper supports for small business can also provide the keys to ensuring the economic recovery is felt in places like Longford.
“I have had a number of discussions recently with Minister Bruton on ways of investing in Longford’s tourism offerings and I would be hopeful that I can progress this in the short to medium term.”
Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has condemned the comments made by Sinn Fein Environment spokesperson Brian Stanley, who said that ‘bad laws sometimes have to be broken’. Deputy Stanley made the comments on Midlands Radio 3 this morning when saying he would not be paying the water charges.
“As elected representatives to Dail Eireann, we pass laws in our parliament. Not every TD will agree with certain legislation but once passed, it becomes law and that is how democracy works.
“I think it’s outrageous for Deputy Stanley to say that laws are there to be broken.
“As a legislator, Deputy Stanley should be leading by example but unfortunately, Sinn Fein again appear to have an ambigious relationship with the democratic functions of this State and in the North as seen by Gerry Adams’ handling of the Maria Cahill revelations.
“In relation to water charges, I know that the Government is listening and must listen to the people.
“The charges must be made as fair and as affordable as possible and people must know exactly what they are paying for when they receive their bills.”
Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has urged youth projects in Longford and Westmeath to apply for capital grant funding which has been made available. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly TD, has announced the availability of €5 million capital funding for small to medium youth projects in disadvantaged communities in 2014.
“The funding announced will be extremely useful in allowing youth projects in disadvantaged communities to upgrade or replace equipment. Youth projects will be able to buy new computers, sports equipment, multi-media equipment or furniture.
“These youth projects are extremely valuable to local communities; they provide an outlet for children and bring people together. The money will assist in improving the quality of the services and their facilities to the benefit of young people involved. The provision of the funding underscores the Government’s commitment to enhance the quality of services which add such value to our communities.
“A lot of energy and resources go into supporting youth projects; they are largely funded by donations and they are kept going thanks to the hard work of volunteers. I hope that all the excellent youth projects will apply for this funding to upgrade the services available to young people in the area.
“The capital funding scheme for small to medium grants is open to applications from Department of Children and Youth Affairs funded projects under the Special Projects for Youth Scheme (SPY), Youth Information Centres (YICs), Young People’s Facilities and Services Fund (YPFSF) and Local Drugs Task Force (LDTF). As a once-off, exceptional measure the scheme is also open to a number of national youth organisations. I would urge all organisations to check to see if they are eligible for this funding.
“The grant scheme also calls for applications in early 2015 for capital projects related to health and safety improvements to premises such as improved access for young people with disabilities and upgrade or refurbishment of premises. Details of the scheme and how to apply are on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs website at www.dcya.gov.ie.”
Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said last week’s roundtable meeting on beef issues marked real progress for beef farmers.
“The meeting on beef organised last week by Minister Coveney with farmers and factories, was a really positive step forward and represents solid progress in finding solutions to the current problems around beef prices.
“Before the meeting, farmers felt they had no choice but to protest. Their livelihoods were at stake and I fully understand the pressure they are under.
“At the meeting it was agreed there will now be an intensive two weeks of discussions between farmers and factories, mediated by Michael Dowling who is the former Secretary General at the Department of Agriculture and author of the beef element of the Food Harvest Report. Mr Dowling is extremely experienced, with an in-depth understanding of the beef industry and the current challenges faced by farmers. The negotiations will focus on issues such as specifications, penalties, bonuses and the way in which pricing works for farmers when they bring animals to the factory.
“The other main achievement of this week’s meeting was a strong endorsement of Minister Coveney’s plans to proceed with the setting up of producer organisations for beef farmers. This will mean a radical change in the way farmers do business and is long overdue.
“Currently farmers have to take prices from factories on their own and have limited ability to negotiate. The plan now is for beef farmers to become voluntary members of a farmer owned producer organisation, that would employ professional negotiators to negotiate with the factories on their behalf. This will ensure they get the best prices for what they are producing. It’s a win win as the factories will be able to guarantee supply as long as farmers are getting a fair price. A good example of where this has worked well before is Monaghan Mushrooms, a producer organisation achieving the best prices possible for mushroom growers.
“This Government knows the importance of beef farming to the Irish economy and is committed to finding a workable solution to the current problems experienced by farmers. The upcoming negotiations are really crucial in this regard.”
Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, is calling on Health Minister Minister Leo Varadkar and the Minister with responsibility for Disability, Kathleen Lynch, to help restore vital funding for intellectual disability services in Longford and Westmeath.
“We are blessed in this region with high quality services. However, since 2008, the HSE has consistently cut services due to the economic downturn.
“Acute funding difficulties are now being experienced by intellectual disability services in Longford and Westmeath and as a local TD, I want to bring this urgent funding crisis to the attention of Ministers Varadkar and Lynch.
“It is simply not fair that our most vulnerable should suffer from the effects of the recession and I am now calling on both ministers to restore the balance and renew the funding for these vital services.
“St Christopher’s services in Longford provide a family atmosphere in their group homes, where people experience a strong sense of continuity and safety. Staff in these services do tremendous work through the relationships they have nurtured with residents.
“We simply cannot treat these group homes as purely economic entities by replacing staff with less expensive ones. We have to put the residents at the centre of our thinking and I am calling on the HSE to remove the threat to put existing group homes out to tender.
“In relation to St Hilda’s services, I have been speaking to the CEO Sheila Buckley Beirne and I know that she and her team have done immense work in keeping services open despite the sharp reduction in funding. She tells me that everything is now cut to the bone and any further cuts will result in a loss of services at client level.
“I hope that Minister Varadkar and Minister Lynch will look
urgently at this funding crisis to provide some level of reassurance to service-users and providers in both counties.”