Cope Foundation facing funding crisis amid warning €34m needed as demand surges for services

COPE Foundation, one of Ireland’s biggest disability support providers, warned that it faces a funding crisis with €34m now required to deal with surging demand for its services.

The charity has submitted an urgent report to the Health Service Executive (HSE) which warned it requires urgent additional investment if services are to cope with demand to 2023.

Without the extra funding, COPE warned that assessment delays, treatment waiting lists and residential housing provision will dramatically worsen.

The situation with waiting lists is so serious that COPE warned many children are now at risk of “ageing-out” or become adults before they are assessed and provided with supports.

Incredibly, some adults seeking COPE supported residential accommodation are being forced to “couch-surf” with relatives while they await a bed. has learned that COPE services are so stretched that more than 400 children are waiting for assessment for autism spectrum disorder.

A further 1,350 are awaiting support from treatment and support specialists – with some children on the waiting list for such supports for years.

Financial pressure also increased on COPE after it took over the responsibility of one former service provide at the request of the HSE.

COPE also assists young adults with intellectual disabilities and autism.

A total of 174 adults are on the residential housing waiting list – with many having nowhere to call a permanent home.

A further 649 adults have been identified as having “changing needs” which require ongoing assessment and treatment supports.

The charity currently supports almost 3,000 children and young adults.

It provides these services through a network of 69 centres, heavily focused on Cork where the charity was founded 62 years ago.

COPE Foundation chief executive Sean Abbott said they have never encountered a funding situation like it before.

“We are extremely grateful for all the funds we currently receive from both the HSE and the general public,” he said.

“However, in the 30 years that I have worked with COPE Foundation, I have never experienced delays this bad.

“It’s disheartening both for myself, and my colleagues across the Foundation, when we have to consistently say ‘no’ to families who are desperately seeking help.

“As waiting lists lengthen, we face the very real possibility that children who need support for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will age-out of the system and become adults without having received the appropriate intervention and support.

“Equally, we have people whom we support who are couch-surfing between family members as they have nowhere to live on a permanent basis. For each of these statistics, there are immeasurable challenges facing these individuals and their families.”

  • Read More: ‘Families shouldn’t have to fight tooth-and-nail for help, I don’t know what we would do without the Cope Foundation’

A comment on the COPE funding problem was awaited from the HSE last night.

COPE has submitted a comprehensive service review designed to examine their requirements up until 2023.

That report has been submitted to the HSE and COPE are currently awaiting a final response.

The charity is seeking an additional investment of €34m per year to cope with surging demand for its services.

Last year, COPE had an income of €65m with more than €1m secured through fundraising.

Given the scale of the challenge, COPE is now also looking to dramatically increase funding from both corporate donors and the general public.

Underlining this campaign is the realisation that the age profile of its service users is going to dramatically change.

Four in ten adults using COPE services are aged over 45 years.

Almost three quarters of people using COPE services are now adults.

That is expected to dramatically increase as Ireland’s population ages – resulting in dramatic changes in the service needs operated by COPE.

To support this, COPE is launching a campaign to increase its use of technology and specialist facilities for adults, all of which are costly to provide.

“People have been incredibly generous in their support of the foundation since its inception in 1957,” Mr Abbott said.

“However, there has never been a time when that support has been needed more. In the months ahead, we will be undertaking a significant awareness campaign of the challenges facing COPE, and outlining ways that people and businesses can help.”

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