Fears for Dungiven ‘lifeline service’

Philomena Mulhern and her brother Matthew. (1705SJ2)
Philomena Mulhern and her brother Matthew. (1705SJ2)

The manager of a Dungiven daycare centre has spoken of her fears for the future of the “lifeline” facility, following a new strategy on the delivery of care for people with disabilities.

Glenshane Care Centre, which gets 65 per cent funding from the Western Health and Social Care Trust, has 20 clients on its books; all who live within a five to seven mile radius. Manager Betty Murphy says those who attend three days a week have mild to moderate learning disabilities, while others have profound physical disabilities.

Mrs Murphy revealed over the last year she has been in engaged in meetings with the Western Trust, following the launch of “The Northern Ireland Physical and Sensory Disability Strategy and Action Plan” last February by Health Minister Edwin Poots.

“We just don’t know what the future is,” Mrs Murphy said yesterday. “They talk about providing opportunities for people with disabilities to allow them to become more independent, about daycare opportunities and alternatives, but there is nothing like that in this area for people with disabilities..”

Mrs Murphy fears the move is about saving money “and that daycare is costing too much. I would be afraid this is another cost-cutting exercise and our disabled people are going to be left high and dry”.

She added: “There might be a Glenshane Care, but what is expected of us? How will it work? What and where are the opportunities, especially here in Dungiven. It’s a worrying time and after a year of meetings we remain unclear as to how this is all going to work in practice. The impact of this uncertainty is unsecurity among our members with disabilities, staff and Board of Directors. We cannot forward-plan until we have some idea what the future holds.”

Equally as worried is Philomena Mulhern. Her brother Matthew is 55, and has Down’s Syndrome.

“Glenshane is a lifeline for him, and me too. What would they replace what Matthew gets here with? He loves the atmosphere here, and there is no way he could go out to work, or volunteer. It wouldn’t work for him, and if he was forced to, it would have a devastating impact on his health.”

She added: “How can anyone from the outside tell you they know better when they know very little! To me it’s another way to slash services from the vulnerable who don’t have the capability to hit back!”

Margaret Muncey had a stroke in 2004, and says: “If I didn’t have Glenshane I wouldn’t know what day it is,” she said. “I ‘d hate to see cutbacks. I just want things to stay as they are.”

A spokesperson for the Western Health and Social Care Trust said, however, in a statement there is no planned reduction in funding.

“Glenshane Day Care Centre provides a local day service which includes people with physical and learning disabilities and also older clients. The Trust continues to provide recurrent funding on an on-going basis to this service. There is no planned reduction of Trust funding,” said a Trust spokesperson