When CoAction was formed, the children using the service were mostly young. But now they are 40 years older, and so are their parents, who are worried for their futures, writes Siobhán Cronin
A GROUP of West Cork parents are lobbying the government to try and secure respite and residential homes for their special needs children.
The parents – who have established West Cork Parent Support & Action Group – met with Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath recently and said they were very encouraged by his response.
Among those who met with him on a deputation to Dublin were Skibbereen parents Sheila O’Carroll and Rosemary Murray.
‘We are a group of local parents, whose children mostly attend CoAction in West Cork,’ Sheila explained. ‘But we are worried about the €1m cut in funding that it has suffered in recent years and we realise they are very stretched regarding respite and group homes,’ she said.
‘When CoAction was formed, our children were very young,’ added Rosemary, ‘but now they are getting older. To put it bluntly, we are worried what will happen to them when we are not around.’
All the parents share the same fears and are hopeful that their campaign can secure extra funding to get some more beds in group homes. Currently there are just a few group homes available and there is always huge demand for these, Sheila said. And, as the children – all adults now – get older, there will be a greater demand for these services.
The parents also know that as time moves on, some of them are not going to be as able to look after their children as they were, years ago. ‘You are constantly worried about your own health,’ one parent said, ‘you almost become obsessed with it.’
‘Some parents, now in their 70s, are actually beginning to panic a bit,’ said Sheila. ‘They are worried about what is going to happen to their children if anything happens them, or even if they just get ill.’
While the parents look after their children at home currently, they would also like to see them having a more independent life, and having their own home, or even just a room in a group house, which they could share with other like-minded friends.
But that type of service requires medical supervision, depending on the level of need, and that is where the cost is incurred.
The parents’ action group was established last year and already has 50-60 members, with meetings held every fortnight between Bantry, Skibbereen and Rosscarbery, on Wednesday mornings.
The parents estimate there are about 170 families availing of services in West Cork that would fall into their category and they believe people power is what is needed to put pressure on the government to secure more funding.
Sheila says many parents have been forced to leave West Cork to avail of services elsewhere, but children with special needs – be it autism, Down Syndrome, and more – can be very set in their ways and routine is hugely important.
The group is calling on any other parents who are facing similar issues to contact them at [email protected] or come to one of their regular meetings.
They are also calling on politicians from every corner to lend them support and help them in their bid to secure more funding for services in West Cork.
‘Margaret Murphy O’Mahony was instrumental in getting us that meeting with the Minister,’ said Sheila, ‘and it actually happened very quickly in the end. But we are not going to stop there, we need to keep on pushing. On whatever door we need to push.’
To contact the group, email [email protected]