Western Trust: McGuinness calls for investigation into disability funding

The Western Trust
Image caption The deficit has been quantified at £8 million

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness has called for an investigation into a multi-million pound black hole in the north west's disability services.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust has confirmed that services were underfunded by up to £8m in "the last couple of years".

A meeting organised by the Western Learning Disability Action Group was held in Londonderry on Tuesday night.

Families and carers have said they now want answers.

Mary Gilbraith, who was at Tuesday's meeting, said they had been raising the issue of underfunding for years.

"We have a residential home in Strabane which houses 12 people and is absolutely full, we've no respite at all.

"We've been calling for these things for years and there's never been the money to do it.

"There are a lot of those parents who have difficulties and by letting them go into respite it means they're able to stay at home for longer.

"It really prepares them for whenever you're no longer there."

'Entirely unacceptable'

Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney said Mr McGuinness will press the new health minister on the issue.

"There is quite rightly a great deal of shock and anger at the underfunding revelations and that was clearly demonstrated at the public meeting which took place in the city on Tuesday," said Mr McCartney.

"It is entirely unacceptable that funds which are earmarked for vulnerable people are not being properly utilised.

"It is particularly galling if that is the case at a time when budgets are under increasing pressure."

In a statement the Western Trust said: "Over the past couple of years the extent of a deficit in investment in learning disability services in the Western Trust has been confirmed by both the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and the Health and Social Care Board.

"The deficit has been quantified as £8m. Since this was confirmed the Western Trust has worked with the commissioner of services at the board to address this issue."

The statement adds that £2.3m of additional investment has been received by disability services for this financial year.