Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health, Disability & Special Needs Colm Keaveney says children with disabilities are losing out on essential early intervention services because of where they live. New figures, released to the Galway East Deputy reveal that certain parts of the country have no Early Intervention Teams at all, despite the fact that almost 1,200 children are waiting for an appointment.
Deputy Keaveney commented, “This Government has failed to get to grips with the escalating crisis in children’s mental health services. Early intervention systems, which are relatively inexpensive and which have been successful where they are introduced, have stalled, and some counties are still without these important services.
“Large parts of north Dublin, north Cork, Wicklow and Wexford have been left without any access to Early Intervention Teams, while waiting lists in areas which are rolling out these programmes are escalating at an alarming rate. There are now almost 1,200 children waiting for appointments with psychologists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers. What’s even more worrying is the fact that many of the areas with the highest waiting list numbers suffer from significant social and economic deprivation.
“It is alarming to see that there is such regional variation in the provision of Early Intervention Services for children. Families are caught in a postal address lottery as to whether or not their children receive help. Some areas are still entirely undeveloped with regard to the delivery of disability services as a network service, while school age disability services are non-existent in large parts of the Midlands and border areas.
“Any delay in receiving treatment will leave many of these children with more serious long-term problems. The essential point of early-intervention is to prevent more serious long-term issues arising, but this is being lost through delays.
“Minister Kathleen Lynch has failed to demonstrate any sense of urgency with regard to getting these teams in place. There is now a real fear that as the Government gears up for the General Election it is edging towards tax cuts rather than ensuring improvements in public services. Vulnerable children are being left behind as the Government fails to spend the budget allocated for mental health services. Minister Lynch must step up to the mark and begin fighting for the disability sector by ensuring that funding is secured in the first instance, but also that services are properly rolled out and that all these socio-economic anomalies are addressed”.