Figures released to Fianna Fáil show shocking gaps in early assessment and support for children with disabilities and special needs right across the country.
Dublin is the worst off, with no HSE Early Intervention Team in operation in the entire Dublin region to assess children with disabilities, measure their progress and support their families in mapping out a treatment plan.
The figures were supplied by the HSE in reply to Parliamentary Questions from Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on Disability, Mental Health & Special Needs, Colm Keaveney TD.
“These figures show just how much the State is failing children with special needs,” said Deputy Keaveney.
“There are glaring gaps in crucial early treatment for children with disabilities, with no Early Intervention Teams in operation in the entire Dublin region and large areas of the south and east of the country. This means that instead of getting the early treatment they need, thousands of children in these areas are waiting for years just to get a basic assessment of their difficulties,” the Fianna Fáil Spokesperson said.
The figures supplied to Deputy Keaveney show that there are a total of 58 Early Intervention (EI) Teams dealing with 6,399 children across the country. 11 HSE areas have no EI teams at all. This includes Dublin South, Dublin South East, Dublin South Central, Dublin South West, Dublin North & North City, Kildare-West Wicklow, Wicklow, Cork North, Cork North Lee, Cork South Lee, Kerry and Carlow-Kilkenny.
There are 1,940 children across the country who have been waiting for over a year to be assessed for speech and language problems and 2,983 children who have been waiting over a year for treatment for speech and language difficulties. In addition to this, there are 2,090 children who are waiting for over a year for Occupational Therapy services.
The waiting lists are the highest in the south of the country. In the Southern region alone, there are 2,036 children on a waiting list for over a year to see a Speech and Language Therapist and 1,182 children on waiting list for over a year to see an Occupation Therapist.
Deputy Keaveney continued, “The whole idea of Early Intervention Teams is to provide assessment and support to children with special needs as soon as their needs become apparent. Research shows that by identifying a disability at a young age and mapping out an appropriate care plan, a child has a much better chance of quality of life and a much better chance of managing their disability. But this service is completely crippled by a lack of resources.
“This comes down to the simple question: How seriously does the State take its duty of care towards children with special needs? These figures must act as a wake-up call for the Government. If the Minister for Health James Reilly and Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch truly believe in the need to provide the most basic level of support for children with disabilities, they will intervene now and ensure this crucial service is properly resourced.”