Today, during Leaders’ Questions, Deputy Broughan raised the need for Section 39 organisations to be supported and properly funded given the important service they provide to the State and the people who need them. Recently a new Disability Action Coalition, TDAC, was established by nine frontline service providers for people with disabilities. Their objective is to highlight the major shortfall in funding that these nine organisations, all Section 39s, are facing. The member organisations include Chime, MS Ireland, Cheshire Ireland, Headway, Enable Ireland, the Irish Wheelchair Association, National Council for Blind, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, Rehab, etc. meaning they cater for tens of thousands of citizens with disabilities across a wide range of disability type and employ 9,000 skilled workers.
Section 39 organisations are agencies in receipt of HSE funding “to allow the agency to provide services similar or ancillary to the HSE”. Section 39 organisations work under Service Level Agreements with the HSE and historically have had linked pay scales. However, since pay restoration of Section 38 agencies began, the Government and HSE line has been that “the employees of section 39 agencies are not public servants, are not members of public sector pension schemes and, unlike their section 38 counterparts, are not directly bound by the Department of Health consolidated pay scales. As the HSE and the Department of Health have no role in the pay rates or terms and conditions of the staff employed by these section 39 agencies, it is a matter for Section 39 organisations to negotiate salaries with their staff as part of their employment relationship and within the overall funding available for the delivery of agreed services.”
This matter has been raised in the Dáil, and previously in Leaders’ Questions by Deputy Broughan, and a Labour Court decision confirmed that pay scales were linked. The vital organisations now have a shortfall of approximately €20m just to maintain the level of current services. That’s because the amount of funding they receive from the HSE doesn’t match the cost of providing those services. Indeed, they have had to cut services in recent years just to keep going, including respite and day services, and specialist services for children and adults.
Deputy Broughan says “Last week, I attended a meeting of the newly established Disability Action Coalition and received up-to-date briefings on the current situation for funding of Section 39 organisations. These organisations are providing vital services to people with disabilities and need to be supported. I called on the Government to provide the €20m shortfall immediately and to implement the recommendations of the Report of the Independent Review Group established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in publicly funded health and personal social services which was chaired by Ms Catherine Day and reported to the Department in October 2018.”