Adult Learning Disability Underspend: Western Trust

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 16th January 2017.

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Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:15 pm, 16th January 2017

T2. Mr McCrossan asked the Minister of Health for an update on the actions that she has taken to investigate the underspend on adult learning disability services in the Western Trust area, which was discovered in 2013, with us now almost a year down the track since it was revealed following great work by families and the media. (AQT 647/16-21)

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

Maybe the Member was not in earlier; I did answer this question, but I am happy to do so again. I have repeatedly made clear my commitment to making sure that the issue is resolved. I have met the families and agreed a number of actions with them that we are going to take forward to facilitate their being able to achieve the information they asked for. I have made arrangements for the appointment of an independent facilitator to work with the trusts and the families to restore relationships, so that a plan for further investment in adult community learning disability services can be developed in the area as a matter of priority.

The terms of reference for this work have been finalised and were issued to the chief executive of the Western Trust in December. These require me to approve the appointment of a facilitator, which I will do following further engagement with representatives of the families in the area. I have also appointed a senior official from the Department to oversee progress and to act as a point of contact for the families. Arrangements are also being made to facilitate a meeting between the Health and Social Care Board and families to discuss the capitation formula. Obviously, it is a complex subject, and the families are very keen to know more and to understand it.

Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party

Thank you, Minister, for answering the question. You did not answer it earlier, and I am not enthused by your answer, nor will be the many people and families who are listening, sitting on the sidelines, disappointed and disgusted that we still have not got answers about this money.

First, where is the money, Minister? Secondly, do you not feel that the many promises that you have made are letting people down? You are about to walk out of office, as your party has done, collapsing with your love partners in the Executive. What do you say to those families, Minister? They are waiting on the sidelines with people on waiting lists for operations and everything else. You are politicking, and people are in crisis. It is time that this issue was taken seriously, and I do not think that your party is doing that.

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

You have a neck on you to tell anybody to take anything seriously. I have taken up this issue. From the very first day that I came into office, the issue was brought to my attention. I have done absolutely everything I can to work with the families.

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

You should not shout over me.

I have done everything that I can to work with the families. I agreed a number of actions with them. I told them exactly what I was going to do. I told them that I would appoint an independent facilitator and that it was time that we started to try to build a relationship. I thought that we could do that through the appointment of an independent facilitator. That is exactly what I have done. It is important that we support those families and that they feel that they are being listened to. I said that we would get to the bottom of the issue and get clarity on the £8 million that we talked about. It is more important to make sure that they start to build a relationship with the trust again and that the independent facilitator accommodates that to allow them to feel confident that their loved ones are being looked after and for trust to be built up again between the individuals and the trust. For me, making sure that that work is done is far more important than trying to make a headline for yourself in next week's local paper.

I want to be a Minister. I have shown my track record and what I could do when I came into office. Every decision that I took was based on equality and mutual respect, and my track record in transforming health and social care, listening to staff and patients, listening to —

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

I have done absolutely everything I can. You are right: I am leaving office. Do you know why? Because I will not tolerate the arrogance of the DUP. That is exactly why I am leaving office. You can sit on the sidelines, but you are absolutely irrelevant. Let me tell you why: you could have brought all the motions you wanted to the House, but the only person who could hold Arlene Foster and the DUP to account was Sinn Féin and Martin McGuinness when he placed his resignation before the House. So do not talk —

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

A LeasCheann Comhairle —

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

Do not talk your nonsense with me. Do not try to muddy the waters. I am absolutely committed to making sure that I deliver every support to those people with a disability or a learning disability. I am absolutely committed to making sure that we get to the bottom of the issue in the Western Trust and that those families can get on with caring for their loved ones. I do not think that you should use the issue to try to score petty political points. I am not interested.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Deputy Speaker

Members, please. We have tried to conduct our business today with quiet respect, one for the other. I would seriously appreciate it if Members would not talk across one another or shout when another Member has the Floor, please.

The Member who placed question No 3 is not in position.