Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Kathleen Funchion TD, has severely criticised Government following the release of figures which reveal 9,529 children are waiting over 12 months for an initial contact with their local Children’s Disability Network Team.
Deputy Funchion was speaking following Child Poverty Week, an initiative to highlight and refocus policy makers attention on child poverty and deprivation.
Teachta Funchion said:
“We are condemning children with complex needs to a lifetime of disadvantage, educational inequality, and adversity with the outrageous lack of access to speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and physiotherapists across all CDNTs.
“The HSE released figures to my office this week showing the postcode lottery that exists for children and young people accessing CAMHS is being replicated across CDNT teams nationally. The disparity between CHOs is expansive.
“CHO6 which covers Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire and Dublin South East, have 903 children on wait lists whilst CHO1, which takes in Donegal, Sligo/ Leitrim and Cavan/ Monaghan had 93 children waiting in excess of 12 months. Both CHOs have similar populations.
“In my own region which takes in CHO5, 1,496 children are on a 12 month plus wait list, however, I know the reality is children are waiting a lot longer than 12 months for their first initial appointment or phone call, I have met families who are waiting up to three years.
“I have met with disability services in my constituency, one service specialising in pre-school (18 months – 6 years) Carlow based Holy Angels, pointed out that children are presenting to their service up to the age of 5 not having had any engagement with the local CDNT. I know this is being replicated around the country.
“The stress and anxiety this causes families and parents who are having to cope with a child that has complex needs must be extremely challenging and frightening.
“The demand for access to speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and physiotherapists is high, but the response from government is nearly non-existent.
“Anecdotally I am hearing of an exodus in skilled professionals from the HSE towards private practice, this is evident in the woefully understaffed CDNT’s across the 9 CHOs. Inclusion Ireland have put WTE vacancies at 707, and whilst there has been an expansion of approved posts, the people aren’t there to fill them.
“Clearly demonstrating more needs to be done to firstly stem the exodus and secondly encourage more students to consider a clinical and therapy role.
“This must change, it’s just not acceptable any longer for these posts to remain vacant while parents and guardians scramble to find an assessment of need or therapeutic supports for their children.”