More than 2,000 with intellectual disabilities living in institutional settings despite policy – report

Inclusion Ireland says Ireland may be in breach of several international rights covenants

More than 2,000 people with intellectual disabilities are still living in institutional settings despite policy stating all should be closed by 2018, a report published today has said.

Those with disabilities experience segregation, human rights abuses and deprivation of liberty by virtue of remaining in these congregated settings, according to Inclusion Ireland’s Housing for People with Intellectual Disabilities report.

Through inaction, it says, Ireland may be in breach of several international rights covenants as well as domestic and Constitutional law.

The report coincides with an Inclusion Ireland conference on the housing experiences of people with intellectual disabilities on Tuesday, International Day of Persons with Disabilities.


Its core message is that more needs to be done to address accommodation needs, especially considering today’s housing crisis.

The report highlights the HSE’s Time to Move on from Congregated Settings - A Strategy for Community Inclusion document published in 2011.

If focused on 4,000 people in 72 “congregated setting” centres where 10 or more people share a single living unit or are campus-based.

“Despite the ‘compelling case for action’ described in the strategy, action has been very slow,” Inclusion Ireland notes.

“The strategy was clear in recommending that all congregated settings would be closed within seven years (by 2018). However, according to the latest figures, there are at present approximately 2,136 people with disabilities still living in institutional settings in Ireland.”

These people, Inclusion Ireland says, as well as about 1,500 young people inappropriately placed in nursing homes, now require appropriate community based housing and supports.

"The shameful neglect of addressing the housing needs of people with disabilities in Ireland has been ignored," said Enda Egan, chief executive of Inclusion Ireland.

“People with intellectual disabilities have housing needs like any other citizen in the State. However, due to the added barriers that people with intellectual disabilities (face) they are effectively unable to access housing.”

The HSE said moves away from institutional settings are ongoing and a number of housing solutions are being delivered across the country.

Today, there are about 66,000 people in Ireland with intellectual disabilities. Figures from the National Intellectual Disability Database (NIDD), quoted in the report, show 55.5 per cent of adults with an intellectual disability live in a home setting; 6.2 per cent in independent setting; 22.2 per cent in community group homes; and 10.2 per cent in residential centres. For those under 18 years of age, 99 per cent are in a home setting.

Calling for greater progress on housing access for this vulnerable segment of society, the report also raises concerns regarding the dependence of many on remaining at home.

“There seems to be no forward (societal) planning of accommodation as family members grow older. With this form of housing comes informal care-giving from family members,” it says.

“(This) can be particularly distressing for parents as they age and their capacity to provide care and support diminishes.”

Last year, those with an intellectual disability represented over 2 per cent of the social housing waiting list but Inclusion Ireland believes the true number is probably considerably higher.

“People with an intellectual disability are 1.4 per cent of the total population and 3.1 per cent of the homeless population. This represents a gross inequality for people with disabilities.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times