Figures obtained by Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Disability Margaret Murphy O’Mahony show that 3,611 people under the age of 18 are waiting more than a year for their first occupational therapy assessment.

The figures, which date from April 2016 and are the latest available, show a substantial increase in the number of children experiencing long term waits for assessment.

Deputy Murphy O’Mahony said, “Occupational therapy is fundamental for assisting people to go about their daily lives when faced with illness, injury or a disability.

“To have so many young people waiting so long for an assessment for such essential therapy is simply appalling. Occupational therapy is vital for children with conditions such as cerebral palsy, dyspraxia and spina bifida.

“Cork and Kerry combined account for over a quarter of the overall waiting list with 1,075 children waiting more than a year for an assessment. This compares with 560 in August 2015, so the number of children waiting more than a year has almost doubled in 8 months.

“Furthermore some 674 children are waiting more than a year in the South East while 905 are currently stuck on the waiting list for counties Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Laois and Offaly. Nationally there are another 3,028 children waiting between 6 months and a year for assessment.

“Overall, some 25,520 people were awaiting assessment in April – up from 20,013 in August 2015. Some 4,370 are waiting more than a year, up from 3,081 last year, an increase of almost 42%.

“Addressing these long waiting times must be a priority in Budget 2017, and this is something that I will be pushing for in the weeks ahead.”