HRB publish intellectual, physical and sensory disability statistics

Notwithstanding record levels of service provision, figures highlight unmet needs and increased future demands on service provision for those with an intellectual disability and /or physical and sensory disability.

Cover of NIDD 2017 report and cover of NPSDD 2017 report side by side.

The Health Research Board (HRB) published two reports today (29 June 2018) which analyse the latest data available on services that people with a disability received during 2017, and provide estimates of the type of services they will need up to 2022.

‘There are two key messages from the data in the two reports issued today’, said Ms Caraíosa Kelly, from the HRB.

'Firstly, people with severe intellectual disability are living longer. The majority of those live at home, which is very positive. However, this increased life expectancy, combined with the ageing profile of their primary carers, is going to place demands on our health system to provide specialist care services and supports for both service users and their carers.

And secondly, notwithstanding continuing investment in specialist disability services, there is a recurrent level of unmet need for these services for those with a physical and sensory disability'.

2018 is the last year that data from both the National Intellectual Disability Database (NIDD) and National Physical and Sensory Disability Database (NPSDD) will be published separately. Later this year data from these two registers will be merged to form the National Ability Support System (NASS). This system will provide a more comprehensive picture of HSE disability funded services.

The reports were launched earlier today by Minister of State with special responsibility for Disabilities, Finian Mc Grath, T.D., at a prize-giving ceremony in a Brothers of Charity service in Galway. This event  celebrated the achievements of the two service users who won a competition to design the report covers; Shane Molloy for his piece ‘Poppy Love’ which is on the cover of the NIDD report and Hilary Murray for her design ‘Two Birds at Sunset’ for the cover of the NPSDD report.

Minister McGrath commented,

‘I would like to congratulate the competition winners for their fantastic artwork on the covers of these reports. Their work truly illustrates the human dimension to these reports which is about improving quality of life for people living with disabilities by understanding the services they require more clearly’.

‘The identification of future demand outlined in these reports will be invaluable to anyone involved in planning services to help plan and to meet the evolving needs for people with intellectual disability’.

Key findings from the National Intellectual Disability Database (NIDD) and the National Physical and Sensory Disability Database (NPSDD) are outlined below.

Demographic profile
  • There were almost 50,000 people registered on both databases in 2017; 28,388 people on the NIDD and 20,676 on the NPSDD. The demographic profiles provided in the NPSDD report is based on the 9,956 records which were registered or reviewed in the five-year period 2013-2017.
  • There were more males than females registered on both databases.
  • On the NPSDD, 30% (2,986) were under 18 years at the time of reporting, and 35% (10,032) of those registered on the NIDD were 18 years or less.
  • The most frequently reported type of disability on the NPSDD was neurological.
  • Of the 28,388 people registered on the NIDD, 32% (9,151) had a mild level of intellectual disability; 42% (11,787) were in the moderate range and 17% (4,846) were in the severe/profound range.
  • In 2017, 27% (7,530) of people registered on the NIDD lived in full-time residential services.  In contrast, less than 200 people on the NPSDD lived in full-time residential settings.   
Current services
  • For those in receipt of services, 99.7% (27,902) of people on the NIDD availed of at least one day service while on the NPSDD 58% (3,276 people) received day services. NPSDD current service use and future service need section are based on 5,654 records which were registered or reviewed in 2017.
  • Both reports show that multi-disciplinary services and supports are received by large numbers of people; 23,583 (84%) people on the NIDD received these services while 88% of those on the NPSDD (4,986 people) received one or more therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation services. 
  • Use of respite services also varies in the two reports.  Fourteen per cent of people registered on the NIDD avail of respite nights (4,104 people) while 8% (443 people) of those registered on the NPSDD avail of one or more planned respite services. These proportions are lower than 2016 figures.
Future service requirements in the period 2018– 2022

Both reports indicate that there are high levels of service requirements in the period 2018-2022. 

The NIDD report shows:

  • 2,179 new full-time residential placements will be required an increase of 15 places since 2016.  The majority (84%) require placements in community group homes.
  • 2,365 new residential support services (mainly respite) were reported as required in the period 2018-2022, an increase of 121 on the projected number required in the 2016 NIDD report.

The NPSDD report shows:

  • Future demand for services is greatest in relation to therapeutic interventions such as physiotherapy (640 people, 11%), followed by occupational therapy (541 people, 10%).  The level of unmet demand for physiotherapy has decreased since 2016 but demand for occupational therapy has increased.
  • Six per cent (323 people) require one or more personal assistance and support services. The most-commonly required of these services are home help (96 people, 2%) followed by sign language interpreter (85 people; 2%).

Copies of the main findings for both databases are available to download from the publications section of the HRB website, along with detailed tabular data in PDF format. Infographics containing key statistics from the reports are also available to download.

Print quality photos are also available from the launch.


For further information, please contact:
Brian Cummins, Communications Officer, Health Research Board
m + 353 85 887 9313 e

Notes for editors

The Health Research Board (HRB) is the lead agency supporting and funding health research in Ireland. We also manage five health information systems in the areas of alcohol and drug use, disability and mental health and generate evidence for health policy. Our aim is to improve people's health, build health research capacity and underpin developments in service delivery.

The HRB manages two national service-planning databases in relation to people with disabilities: the National Intellectual Disability Database (NIDD), established in 1995, and the National Physical and Sensory Disability Database (NPSDD), established in 2002. These systems were designed to provide reliable data for service planning. Data from these systems are also used to inform policy.  Registration is voluntary and so the systems are not epidemiological datasets.