Tuesday, 31 January 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
132. Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the purpose of a contribution of €30,000 made to the Irish Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society from lottery funds; and the purpose of a separate payment of €30,000 to ISANDS by the Health Service Executive. [3086/06]
Ms Harney: The Irish Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society, ISANDS, provides support services to parents and families of babies who are stillborn or who die around the time of birth. The society has been funded by the former Eastern Regional Health Authority and, latterly, the Health Service Executive, HSE, since 2001.
In 2005, the HSE grant amounted to €35,000. In addition, a once-off grant of €30,000 was provided by my Department out of national lottery funding. It is a condition of this grant that certification of expenditure be submitted to the Department as soon as possible after the end of the 2005 financial year. My Department is advised by the executive that the approved funding was used by the society in 2005 to help support its activities, including telephone support for bereaved families, publication of newsletters and services of remembrance.
Mr. Gormley: I think the Tánaiste will agree with me that ISANDS carries out tremendous work. The purpose of my question was to ask why the society received a once-off payment in 2005. The society takes 5,500 calls per year. In addition, it must hold meetings throughout the country, hire hotel rooms, which often cost approximately €300 per night, and send off newsletters to its members and others who have been bereaved. Such newsletters cost approximately 96 cent each to post, which amounts to approximately €2,000 in total.
The society has spent approximately €79,000 on its excellent work at the old holy angels plot in Glasnevin cemetery, where 50,000 babies are buried in unmarked graves. It is shocking to think that the society depends on the Dublin mini-marathon to raise approximately €13,000 per year. It may not be a significant electoral issue but 500 families experience this trauma every year. People often face delayed trauma many years after the original event. These people often need the service provided by a support group and ISANDS provides them with such a service on a voluntary basis.
Can the Tánaiste assist ISANDS in any way? The former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, stated that he would provide ISANDS with an office. Will the Tánaiste give me a commitment that she will provide the society with proper office facilities and proper annual funding so it can conduct its business? What is the function of the Tánaiste’s national lottery fund? How much does it contain and how is it dispensed?
Ms Harney: I strongly support ISANDS, which I met in Glasnevin a few months ago. Like Deputy Gormley, I know of many people affected by stillbirth who receive considerable consolation and support from ISANDS. According to the HSE, ISANDS’s annual requirements are in the region of €35,000. The society has not yet received funding for 2006. I am not aware of the commitment made by my predecessor, Deputy Martin, but I will examine the matter. The commitment is not included in the brief I received for the question.
The national lottery grant from the Department of Health and Children is advertised. The Department receives approximately €5 million per annum from the national lottery. There are usually ten times more applications than the available funding can cover. It is a slice of grants from the national lottery in any one year that is made available to the Department. The grant always goes towards once-off expenditure items and generally goes towards capital expenditure. For some reason, the society received no money in 2003 and experienced a serious shortfall. I understand the national lottery grant helped to clear this shortfall. I am happy to meet ISANDS and will be very sympathetic to any particular requirements it may have.
Mr. Gormley: Does the Tánaiste agree that insult was added to injury when stillbirth was not included in the Madden report? In 2005 and 2004, ISANDS was inundated with calls from people who experienced additional suffering because of the organ retention scandal. Funding must be a priority. I would appreciate it if the Tánaiste made every effort to assist these people.
Ms Harney: ISANDS is more than aware of my support for it. The Madden report recommended the establishment of a working group to examine how its findings in respect of organ retention could be applied to stillborn children and adults. We are in the process of establishing this working group and will invite ISANDS to be a representative on it, which will be very important.
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