AOTI welcomes the publication of the Disability Capacity Review report

The Disability Capacity Review estimates the scale of current outstanding need for HSE-funded disability services and makes projections for the increase in demand for disability services to 2032. The primary focus of the report was on what social supports and services are required to enable people with disabilities to live full and fulfilled lives, in line with the Transforming Lives agenda for disability services.

As Ireland has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), we are committed to the highest standard of health for people with disabilities, and to providing comprehensive services to enable people with disabilities attain or regain maximum independence, autonomy and wellbeing in their lives. The review shows clearly that there has been a historical under-resourcing of therapy services for people with disabilities in Ireland. What the report refers to as “unmet needs” are often the basic everyday requirements for people with disabilities to develop, live and thrive in their everyday lives. AOTI welcomes the government’s commitment in the report that we can and must do better.

The Disability Capacity Review identifies that there are significant shortfalls in access to specialist disability therapy services for adults and children, including Occupational Therapy services. There are also difficulties accessing primary care services. The report projects that spending on specialist disability therapies will require additional funding of €54m to €80m. This investment is needed to address the following findings in the report:

  • There will be an overall 7% increase in demand for Occupational Therapy services for people with intellectual disability and physical and sensory disabilities
  • Doubling of Occupational Therapy posts for people with intellectual disabilities
  • An increase from 299 WTE occupational therapists in children’s disability teams in 2018 to 440 in 2032
  • Occupational Therapy is the principal therapy service availed of by children and adults with physical and sensory disabilities, with the level of service needing to double
  • The need to address the major shortfall in access to timely neurorehabilitation nationally

We find the suggestion that there will be a 10% fall in demand for children’s therapy services because the number of children will fall by 2032 oversimplistic. Reduction of demand only relates to caseload numbers but does not reflect the complexity of children’s needs. When current unmet needs are factored into these above projections, it is clear why the report predicts that overall demand for therapy services, including Occupational Therapy, will rise by about two thirds by 2032.

As 90% of people with disabilities are supported in mainstream services and only 9% receive specialist disability services, access to mainstream services is therefore a key issue. This highlights the need for a whole-of-government approach in the planning and investment needs set out in the Disability Capacity Review and we welcome the commitment to this approach.

It is clear from the projections in the report that there will be a significant increase in the number of occupational therapists employed in disability services by 2032. To meet this demand, we call on the Department of Health to conduct a review to ensure the annual output of Occupational Therapy graduates is sufficient to meet the projected staffing levels. Such a review could form part of the workforce planning requirements identified in the report.

The full report can be found here


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