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Funding crisis for disability organisations like ours


Funding crisis for disability organisations like ours

Barbara O'Connell, CEO, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland is pictured with other members of The Disability Action Coalition (TDAC) campaigning outside the Dáil for funding for disability organisations.

Pictured (l-r) Mark Mitchell, MS Ireland service user (centre), Kathleen O Meara, Rehab Group, Ava Battles, MS Ireland, John O’Sullivan, Enable Ireland, Meabh Smith, Irish Wheelchair Association, Barbara O’Connell, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, Theresa Anderson, Cheshire Ireland, Brendan Lennon, Chime, Kevin Kelly, NCBI of The Disability Action Coalition today (3rd December 2019) called on the Government to resolve the funding crisis which they say is threatening the future of their services. The coalition, made up of nine organisations funded under Section 39 of the Health Act, provide services for around 65,000 adults and children with physical, intellectual, sensory and mental health disabilities, revealed a €20 million shortfall across the nine frontline disability organisations providing these critical services. To find out more visit Picture Conor McCabe Photography.


As many of you will know, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland is largely funded through Service Level Agreements with the Health Services Executive (HSE). We hugely value our relationship with the HSE and value our partnerships there. But we also face serious under-funding that is a constant threat to our ability to deliver services.

Core costs

You see, when funding only supports the service delivery costs, our organisation is denied essential funding for core business functions and governance. Why do we need this funding? The reality is that any organisation, including Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, cannot exist without also covering costs for vital business functions including finance, human resources and administration.

Why this funding is vital

Like any business:

  • we work to the highest standards to account for all monies we receive and spend
  • We work to ensure we observe all employee legislation and protect the rights of our staff
  • We work to ensure our staff are trained to the highest standards to deliver brain injury rehabilitation
  • We work to ensure all data adheres to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)
  • We work to ensure all our services are compliant with HIQA and relevant legislation

Need to grow our services

As you can imagine, we would not deliver our brain injury rehabilitation services any other way. These functions are vital. But without funding for functions like finance and HR, this creates a gap in funding that we cannot fill and which threatens our ongoing survival. It also hampers our ability to grow our services, which is a big problem when we know so many more people need our help to rebuild their lives after brain injury.

Strength in numbers

So that’s why we have joined forces with 8 other disability organisations facing the same funding gap and crisis. Together we are called The Disability Action Coalition (TDAC for short). Our colleagues in the group include organisations you know such as Cheshire Ireland, Chime, Enable Ireland, Headway, Irish Wheelchair Association, MS Ireland, National Council for the Blind Ireland and Rehab Group.

Campaigning at the Dáil

Barbara O'Connell, Chief Executive and founder of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland

Barbara O’Connell, CEO, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland

Yesterday we joined the TDAC group and campaigned outside the Dáil, calling on the Government to resolve the funding crisis. At a media briefing in Dublin, our CEO Barbara O’Connell said: “Our reserves have gone down. We are here to highlight that things could collapse very quickly if we don’t get the funding we need.”

Section 39 and how it affects our organisation

All of these organisations including Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, are funded under Section 39 of the Health Act. Under this section, this means we are not funded to meet the full costs of pay restoration, insurance, regulation or training.

Squeezed by the State

John O’Sullivan, CEO of Enable Ireland said: “We have been left behind while the rest of the country is catching up after the cuts of the recession years. This lack of funding is crippling our ability to respond to the needs of people with disabilities. We are being squeezed between State-funded services and private providers. We have all the obligations of State services but none of their advantages and supports, especially funding.”

Staff relationships with clients are vital

Retaining staff is vital to delivery of our services which is challenging in a competitive environment. Equally important, are the relationships that our staff build with our clients. We work really hard to ensure we hire and retain the best people with the best fit for the organisation and a person-centred approach.

Our joint plea to Government

Together with Enable Ireland and other members of the coalition, we are calling  on the government for:

  • €20m to eliminate the deficits of the Disabilities Action Coalition
  • Implementation of recommendations of the Independent Review Group on the status of Section 39 organisations
  • Pay restoration for Section 39 staff
  • Recognition of the unique role played by Section 39 organisations which are responsive and good value for money

You can read more about our campaigning on this issue for core funding support in the latest Irish Times article.

If you would like to know more about our organisation, see our Annual Report 2018.

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