Speaking after receiving the National Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT) Census and Workforce Review, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Disability and Carers Deputy Pauline Tully voiced her dismay at the fact that there has been a further steep rise in the vacancy rate across Children’s Disability Network Teams since the 2021 census report.
The census report shows that the vacancy rate in 2022 is at 34% compared to 28% in 2021.
Teachta Tully said:
“It is shocking that the Children’s Disability Network Teams census for 2022 has shown that there is a 34% vacancy rate, up from 28% in 2021.
“That equates to over 707 vacancies across the 91 CDNTs nationally, as opposed to 524 in the previous census.
“The vacancy rate in Speech and Language Therapy (36%), Occupational Therapy (40%), and Psychology (39%) are of particular concern as these grades of staff are essential for the delivery of legislative obligations for Assessment of Need under the Disability Act 2005.
“The review goes on to report that there is a 35% vacancy rate among senior grades of staff (up from 29% in 2021).
“The vacancy rate among clinical specialists, at 62%, is extremely worrying as it reduces the ability for the creation of additional third level courses as clinical specialists are essential to oversee clinical placements. At a time when we need to be creating additional third level places and delivering additional therapy graduates, the lack of clinical specialists prevents this.
“A section of vacant posts is down to the fact that the HSE do not fund CDNTs to backfill or replace staff members who are vacant due to maternity or parental leave, which is the equivalent of 121 vacant posts, according to the review.
“This is placing an extremely heavy burden on the staff who are in post as they try to cope with the additional workload placed on them by the fact that over a third of their teams have not been filled.
“This is undoubtedly the main factor that has led to extremely high waiting lists for assessments and services for children.
“What this census and the 2021 census both highlight is that the problem with CDNT’s will not simply be solved through funding. While additional funding has been allocated to fill posts there are simply not enough therapists to fill these roles.
“What both census reports confirm is the need for the Minister for Health and the HSE to develop a strategic workforce plan to train, recruit and retain therapists for these posts.
“This is something Sinn Féin have been continuously calling for and it must be delivered.
“The disparity in pay and conditions for non-HSE staff must also be addressed.
“It is simply not acceptable that over a third of posts within CDNTs are vacant while parents and guardians are desperately seeking access to an assessment of need or therapeutic supports for their children.”