Fianna Fáil Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor says the Government needs to urgently get to grips with the growing crisis in waiting lists for services for children with disabilities.

Senator Murnane O’Connor made the comments after attending a rally held by the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign in Carlow last Tuesday. The campaign is highlighting the excessive delays that children with disabilities are forced to endure in accessing essential services such as Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy.

Senator Murnane O’Connor commented, “In January of this year there were over 4,600 children waiting for more than a year before they are even assessed for access to occupational therapy. This represents an increase of over 60% in the space of a single year. This means that one in three children needing an assessment for occupational therapy are actually waiting for more than one year. It’s an appalling indictment of the way this Government treats children with disabilities.

“It’s well acknowledged that the earlier intervention occurs in terms of the provision of services for children with disabilities the better the outcome for the child over the course of their life. The delay in accessing children for Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy is delaying their access to services, which in turn is impacting on their quality of life. Children with autism and with disabilities need to be assessed as quickly as possible to ensure they get access to the services they need to aid their development.

“I’ve raised this matter in the Seanad on a number of occasions, as has my Party Leader in the Dáil, and I’m shocked by the lack of interest the Government is showing in wanting to deal with this problem. There are shortages of therapists to fulfill demands and in some areas those on maternity or sick leave are not replaced. This is giving rise to excessive waiting lists which is the root cause of the problem. The problem can be easily fixed by hiring more therapists and ensuring services are adequately resourced.

“Without assessment some children cannot access additional support services at school. This has huge ramifications on their overall development and causes huge stress for families. The Government needs to get to grips with this crisis instead of just ignoring it,” concluded Senator Murnane O’Connor.