Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health

Quarterly Update on Health Issues: Discussion
Quarterly Update on Health Issues: Discussion

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin Bay North, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I am very conscious of that which is one of the reasons we prioritised assessment of need along with a number of measures being taken in this year's negotiations on the HSE service plan. We accept the argument that waiting lists in Cork and Kerry are particularly high. There seems to be high number of young children with disabilities coming into the services. That is something we have put a strong focus on.

I am doing a number of things to deal with the issue and there are a number of initiatives are under way. The first is that we are trying to reorganise the disability services in geographical teams under the progressing disabilities services programme. We are trying to clear a pathway for children, irrespective of their disability, so they can get services.

Another initiative is the new standard operating procedure for assessment of need, the purpose of which is to ensure that children and their families access appropriate assessment and intervention as early as possible. Another initiative, which is very important, is that we are doing much in-school early years speech and language therapy. We are doing occupational therapy demonstration projects in different areas also. This is something we have rolled out already and it is made up of 75 preschools, 60 primary schools and 15 post-primary schools indifferent areas.

We have taken the points raised by the Deputy very seriously that we need to improve the number of speech and language therapists in the system and we are recruiting more speech and language therapists in the services. We got a budget for 100 therapists and we will try to drive that higher as we go along. I take the point that there are issues but the assessment of need is very important and I will focus on that. We need to understand that the additional therapy posts will make a dent in this as well. There were industrial relations issues behind the scenes but these have been resolved and I am confident that we can roll-out the services for these young families.

This is a priority for me in 2019 because when took office three years ago, we had the school leavers' issue, the respite issue and other issues within the disability services but listening to colleagues, like Deputy Murphy O'Mahony, we have to do something about the assessment of needs. That has started and I will drive that forward in 2019.


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