New figures obtained by Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Disability, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony TD show that waiting lists for children seeking to acces their first occupational therapy assessment have rocketed by 60% over the past 12 months.

“We now have a situation where 4,122 people under the age of 18 are waiting more than a year for their first occupational therapy assessment compared to 12 months ago where the number waiting was 2.569,” said Murphy O’Mahony.

The new figures, which date from August 2016 and are the latest available, indicate a significant jump in the number of children undergoing long term waits for assessment.

Deputy Murphy O’Mahony commented, “Occupational therapy is crucial for enabling young people and children to go about their daily lives when faced with illness, injury or a disability.

“To have so many young people waiting over a year for an assessment for such fundamental therapy is simply inexcusable. It means that almost one in three children in need of an assessment are waiting more than twelve months to be seen. Occupational therapy is critical for children with conditions such as cerebral palsy, dyspraxia and spina bifida.

“Cork and Kerry combined make up a quarter of the overall waiting list with 1,085 children waiting more than a year for an assessment. This compares with 560 in the same month last year. This doubling of the Cork Kerry waiting list is not acceptable and is causing considerable anxiety among parents.

“Nationwide there are another 3,155 children waiting between 6 months and a year for assessment.

“Overall, some 27,430 of all ages people were awaiting assessment in August – up from 20,013 twelve months earlier. Some 5,256 are waiting more than a year, up from 3,081 last year, an increase of 70%.

“These figures are concerning and show that improving access to Occupational Therapy is sadly not happening under this Government.

“Any significant length of wait for initial assessment is simply unacceptable when you consider that the majority of those waiting are children, and early intervention is critical for them to support their development. Waiting for treatment could potentially prove very damaging.

“The Confidence and Supply Agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael commits to improve services and increase supports for people with disabilities, particularly for early assessment and intervention for children with special needs. These waiting list figures underline the urgency of meeting this commitment,” added Deputy Murphy O’Mahony.