Thursday, 14 November 2019
Progressing Children's Disability Services: Statements
Last month, Fianna Fáil received disappointing figures which show that the numbers of overdue assessments of need - as provided for under the Disability Act 2005 - had risen from 3,500 to more than 3,700 by the end of June. The Disability Act 2005 provides for an assessment of needs for eligible applicants with disabilities. Assessments of need must commence within a three-month period of receipt of the application and must be completed within a further three months. In the middle of this year, more than 3,600 children with disabilities were being kept waiting for their statutory right to an assessment of need, as provided for under the Disability Act. While the figures had been falling during 2018, they have since moved up again and have gone even higher. Things are getting worse. To have so many children in a position where they cannot access their legal entitlement within a statutory timeframe is wrong. This matter needs to be addressed urgently.
We have seen an ongoing lack of progress in the provision of children's disability services. At heart, the Minister of State is a big champion of those with disabilities. Unfortunately, parents of children who have been waiting for that all-important assessment of need come to our clinics weekly. It is not just about the three month wait after the person has made the application, it is about the wait for years to have that first assessment of need.
I put it to the Minister of State that the figures do not lie. I shall outline some of the figures as of August last. A total of 719 children aged between six and 18 are waiting for a first assessment of need for occupational therapy in Cavan-Monaghan. To put this figure into context, in Donegal, which is a significant county in the context of its size, there are 129 children waiting. The initial number of children waiting for an assessment for speech and language in the Cavan-Monaghan area is 629. Compare this to the Sligo-Leitrim area where it is 170 children waiting. There are 464 children in Cavan-Monaghan between the ages of six and 18 waiting for assessments for physiotherapy, in Donegal there are none and in Sligo-Leitrim there are 22. The figures do not lie and I do not think the Minister of State would even try to argue that there is not a distinct problem across Cavan-Monaghan with disability services.
My time is running out but I also wish to comment on the Annalee View respite centre, which offers services for parents of children with a disability and for the children themselves. The place was shut down because of an oil leak and we have been waiting for one year. The parents of those children have no respite for their kids since. We are no further on. The Minister of State has said that somewhere is earmarked in Cavan town and a HIQA report remains, but in the meantime there was a huge backlog in the first place for children with disabilities and since then the place has been shut down for one year. What is happening in Cavan and Monaghan in this regard is an absolute disgrace. The figures are what they are. I ask the Minister of State to please take a particular look at what is going on in Cavan-Monaghan.