Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health, Disabilities and Special Needs, Colm Keaveney TD, says the Inclusion Ireland report into the lack of speech and language therapists for children with special needs exposes the Government’s shameful neglect of these services.

He commented: “The shocking Inclusion Ireland report into the complete lack of adequate speech and language therapists for children with special needs all over the country is yet another example of the Government’s scant regard for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“It is utterly unacceptable to have a situation where speech and language therapists are forced to care for, on average, 170 children, twice what is recommended.  This is the clearest sign yet that the Government has no early intervention policy. These children have been completely forgotten by the Government and the lack of resources committed to this area is shameful.

“To learn that, for example, children with Down Syndrome only receive three speech and language sessions per school year is deeply disturbing.  This could have extremely serious consequences for the development of these children, both socially and intellectually.  What’s more worrying is that the lack of investment and resources in early intervention teams will lead to higher costs to the state in years to come. This is not simply a funding issue it is a policy issue and it asks very serious questions about the Government’s commitment to the care and development of all children with learning difficulties and special needs.

“Fianna Fáil has for years highlighted the lack of early intervention teams in urban areas and how this was reaching crisis point. For example in Dublin there are no early intervention teams at all, which is disgraceful.  Earlier this year it was revealed that over 15,000 children nationwide were on waiting lists for speech and language therapy in 2013.

“The overwhelming evidence points to the complete neglect of the early intervention system, it is high time Minster Kathleen Lynch cuts out the nonsense and commits to fully resourcing the early intervention system. Failure to do so now will seriously damage the development of thousands of vulnerable children, who this state continues to neglect.”