Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe, has described as unacceptable the fact that 7,176 children right across the state are waiting for over a year for assessment or therapy from the early intervention and school age disability services.

Sinn Féin received the figures from the HSE in response to a recent parliamentary question on the issue.

Teachta Seán Crowe said:

“The Programme for Government has a clear commitment to improve the capacity of early intervention, yet the figures released by the HSE show clearly that the current disability services for children are not equipped to deal with the demand for services.

“Under the Disability Act 2005, children are entitled to an assessment of need within 6 months of receipt of application by the HSE.

“The fact that over 7,000 children are waiting for over one year for initial assessment or therapy for speech and language, psychological assessment and occupational therapy services shows clearly that significant investment is required.

“Just this week I received a concerning letter from the HSE regarding the case of a child of a constituent of mine. The letter said that the child’s assessment of need was carried out in August 2015 and was supposed to be reviewed in 12 months by an officer under the Disability Act, but because there was no officer in situ at that time (the position was vacant until March 2017) the child is in a queue and is still awaiting a fresh review.

“I am aware that in many areas the Early Intervention Teams and School Network Teams as envisaged under the Progressing Disability Services Programme have not even been established.

“Early intervention and identification is supposedly the key to a new and enlightened approach to education for children with disabilities but it is not happening for many children right across the country. The current reality facing many parents is that the system is without key personnel that posts are not to being filled and their children are not getting the supports they need.

“I am calling on the Government to immediately ensure that all vacancies in early intervention and school age disability teams are filled and that full capacity teams are put in place as soon as possible.”