The Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has indicated she may appoint an independent facilitator to allow carers and family members co-produce a plan on how to spend an additional £5m on services for adults with learning disabilities in the Western Trust.
She said she was considering the move when asked what action her Department was taking to address a controversial £7m underspend on adult learning disability services in the Western Trust area.
Speaking at Stormont, Ms O’Neill said she had met with two groups from the area, the Western Learning Disability Action Group and the Southwest Carers Forum, last month, and agreed to consider appointing an independent facilitator that would bring together patients and the Trust to plan forthcoming spending on services. At that meeting, I agreed a number of actions, including that I will consider appointing an independent person to support a process of co-production between the Trust and local families and carers to develop a plan for how the planned £5million investment will be spent,” she said.
“That is a practical example of partnership and the co-design approach that I am very keen to promote. I recently wrote to the groups representing the families for their comments on the draft terms of reference for the independent facilitation. They recently got back to me, and I am considering their comments and plan to respond to them shortly,” said the Minister.
Ms O’Neill explained that the controversial £7m underspend, as it was referred to by SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan, was actually a “capitation variance” and did not necessarily mean £7m had been underspent.
“To be clear, a capitation variance of that type does not necessarily mean that there has been an underspend, but, given that it is a complicated calculation and that capitation is complicated,” she explained.
“When I met members of the group recently, one thing that I promised them was that they would be given a meeting with the board so that they could go through all the calculations and understand for themselves exactly how they are worked out. They are glad to take up that opportunity,” she said.
In her response the Minister said firm steps were being taken.
“Robust action continues to be taken on the issue. To begin with, “I have confirmed that increased investment of £3 million in adult community learning disability services is now in place, and a further £5 million is planned by the Western Trust.”