Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North Central Billy Kelleher says children with disabilities are being neglected because of a lack of Early Intervention and school age disability services in the city. HSE figures released through a Parliamentary Question reveal that there are no Early Intervention Teams and no network disability services for children in the Cork North region.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “Children in north Cork are being failed miserably by this Government. Despite promises to prioritise mental health services, children in this area have no access to Early Intervention Teams or even to school age disability services. These children have complex needs, yet have been effectively abandoned by Minister Kathleen Lynch and her Cabinet colleagues, despite the fact that there are at least 50 children in the north Cork area on a waiting list for an appointment with an EI team.
“It is absolutely appalling that some of the most vulnerable children in our city are languishing on waiting lists for an appointment to see psychologists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers. There is a massive regional imbalance in the spread of Early Intervention Teams, with north Cork being left far behind. What’s equally worrying is the fact that there also appears to be a socio-economic divide. Many of the places without these key services are high density, working class areas. The main benefit of early intervention is to prevent more serious long term problems, but the fact that large parts of the country have been ignored in the roll out of these services is leading to long delays in diagnosis and treatment.
“The situation in north Cork is being replicated throughout the country, and hundreds of children are being failed by the Government’s lack of urgency in addressing the situation. Minister Kathleen Lynch has overseen an underspend of the mental health budget at a time when children are left without essential services. This Government’s priorities are wrong. Instead of focusing on improved health and other services, it is more focused on tax cuts and PR stunts.
“Minister Lynch must reassess her approach to this key area and stand up for the disability sector. Instead of diverting money away from essential therapies and services, funds should be ring fenced to ensure that these services are delivered and that delays are eradicated. It is unacceptable that these vulnerable children are being forced to wait for vital developmental treatments, while the Government shifts its focus to tax giveaways in the budget”.