Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, raised the huge waiting lists for early intervention for children with profound speech and language difficulties in his constituency with the Minister of State in the Department of Health, Jim Daly
Speaking in the Dáil, the Sinn Féin TD said ongoing delays in accessing these vital supports are deeply damaging for the children involved and criticised the government’s meek response to this critical issue.
Deputy Crowe said:
“The Programme for Government commitment to early intervention for children is clearly not in place in the CHO7 area. According to the HSE there are now 6,480 children in CH07 area waiting for speech and language assessments and supports.
“Dublin South West has the highest number of children waiting longer for an assessment than any other area in the group. In Dublin South West alone 97 children are waiting 18-24 months for an initial assessment and 145 are waiting over 24 months. It is the only region in the CHO7 area that has children waiting over 24 months for an initial assessment.
“I have repeatedly raised this critical issue with the Taoiseach and various Ministers in the Dáil. There is a clear lack of urgency in their response.
“They seem completely unaware of the difficult struggles that families are going through to try get access to these critical services that their children have a right to. Many families are restoring to the courts in their desperate search for help, assistance, and ensuring their rights are respected.
“This week’s Budget contained no new funding to clear the backlog and the waiting lists. It will instead result in a further stretching of existing services.
“Chamber House in Tallaght is missing a significant amount of key personnel. They are doing their best but they are underfunded and not getting the necessary supports. This understaffing has made it a very unattractive place to work.”
Deputy Crowe continued:
“Many of these children are non-verbal and have significant needs. Early intervention is key and can make a massive positive difference in their lives.
“One expert told me that every day that a child is left without these supports it represents a backwards step of two days. For a child waiting over two years for an assessment that represents four years lost in his or her development. This cannot be allowed to continue.
“Today is world mental health day and I am deeply concerned about the negative affect these delays are having on the mental health of families and children not getting the support and services they deserve.
“This is clearly a system that is broken. It is unacceptable that the development of vulnerable children with profound needs are being damaged because they can’t access the necessary supports and therapy.
“Today I appealed to the Minister to visit the area and to see first hand the challenges faced by parents, children and staff.
“His response lacked any urgency and there was no commitment to do anything new to end this crisis.”