The case of the missing millions from adult learning disability services rumbles on, with another meeting to be held on Thursday, March 14 between the Western Trust and local families in a bid to improve services in the future.

READ: Western Trust disability underspend, £42 million over the past six years.

It is 20 months since the Western Trust admitted that it had been underfunding adult learning disability services “for the past couple of years.” The amount was later estimated at £42 million; an underspend of £7 million per annum over six years.

However, to date, the Trust has made £3 million contribution towards the under investment position. 

In its annual report and accounts published in March 2017, the Trust stated its commitment "to addressing the under investment and plans to work in partnership, through facilitation, with families, carers and advocate groups in a coproduction approach to develop plans to address the remaining funding gap of £5m and to ensure ongoing involvement in service planning and delivery. It is anticipated that an investigative process will begin when a new Minister is appointed."

An independent investigation into who was responsible for the underspend was ordered by former Health Minister Michelle O’Neill but the lack of an Executive has put that on hold.

In the meantime, the Trust is progressing the “involvement and communications process” with local families.

A meeting scheduled for Thursday was cancelled due to the weather and has been rescheduled for March 14, from 7-9pm in the Enniskillen Hotel.

Ahead of the meeting, Rosaleen Harkin, Assistant Director of Adult Learning Disability Services, said the Trust wants to improve services which “will make a difference to service users and carers lives in real terms.”

She believes “considerable progress” has been made in getting service users involved in future planning.

“It is never too late to get involved. If you are interested in having your say, please come along to one of the events or complete and return one of our ‘Involvement’ forms, which can be accessed via our website,” she said.

As part of the communications process, Adult Learning Disability Services in the Western Trust have launched a newsletter and work is currently underway to redevelop the Adult Learning Disability Services website.

Chair of local carer advocacy group, the South West Carers Forum, Caroline Kelly said “it has been a very slow process.”

“Our investigation into what happened here and how substantial millions were taken from adult learning disability services and put into other areas is just sitting there,” she said.

Ms. Kelly said the Trust under the new leadership of Anne Kilgallen “is willing to work with us.” However, she says there are “legacy problems” and a “backlog in needs assessments.”

More complex cases are having money allocated to them, while those with historical needs must wait for more money to be released to them.

Ms. Kelly encouraged service users and carers to attend the meeting. She recognised that carers of adults with a learning disability are some of the busiest and over-stretched carers in society, but she said: “I would encourage them to go the extra mile and understand how this system works so they can change it to suit their needs.”