Waterford TD, Mary Butler has said that the practice of not replacing staff who go on maternity cover is having a terrible impact on the provision of services for children with disabilities in the county.

Deputy Butler was speaking after attending a march in Waterford City to protest the inadequate level of services on offer to children with disabilities.

“At present, there is a two year wait for speech and language therapist appointments and there is currently no child psychologist in Co. Waterford.

“Recent figures from the HSE show that there are 173 children and teenagers waiting in excess of 52 weeks for occupational therapy, including a staggering 135 between the ages of five and 18.

“One of the main reasons for patchy access is that many roles are not replaced when someone goes on maternity leave. This was introduced at the start of the recession as a means of cutting costs, but there is simply no reason to do it anymore.

“Backlogs have grown and grown, and we now have simply unacceptable waiting times to access basic services.

“Without timely assessments and treatments, a child’s educational and social development is being hampered, and that, to me, just isn’t on.  Early intervention is absolutely essential.

“The Minister for Public Expenditure must move to direct all Departments, and agencies such as the HSE, to ensure that core services are not hampered by a prohibition on taking on maternity leave cover,” concluded Butler.