Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has described the ongoing delay in supplying early intervention for children with profound speech and language difficulties as deeply damaging for children.
In written reply from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to Deputy Crowe they reveal that there is a total of 6,480 children waiting for treatment or an assessment in the CHO7 area, which covers Dublin South West, Dublin South City, Dublin West, Kildare, and West Wicklow.
The Sinn Féin TD has repeatedly raised the issue in the Dáil and directly with the Taoiseach, but there has been no reduction in the waiting lists due to the absence of staff and key personnel in the CHO7 area.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“This latest reply from the HSE on the provision of speech and language supports is deeply disturbing. Such massive waiting lists are damaging to children with profound needs.
“Early intervention is clearly not in place in the CHO7 area. According to this reply there are now 6,480 children in CH07 area waiting for speech and language assessments and treatments.
“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.
“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.”
“The HSE reply to my Parliamentary Question clearly states that the current recruitment restrictions are having a significant effect on speech and language therapy services in CHO7 and the numbers on waiting lists will continue to rise if vacant posts are not filled.
“Despite the huge and damaging waiting lists, the reply outlines that there are currently 10.5 vacant speech and language therapy posts and 6 uncovered maternity leave posts in the CH07 area.
“The responsibility for this massive crisis clearly lies with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, and his policies and inaction on recruitment and retention.
“Minister Harris needs to stop his evasive answers on this issue and stop pretending that the recruitment restrictions are not having an impact.
“The government’s failure to tackle this issue is having a massive negative effect on children. It is unacceptable that children with profound needs are being left without supports and therapy because of the government’s failures.
“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 must not be allowed to continue.
“The matter needs greater focus from the Minister for Health, he needs to lift the recruitment restrictions, and more funds must be urgently released to tackle the appalling delays.”