Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Services for People with Disabilities: Statements


2:35 pm

Photo of Carol NolanCarol Nolan (Laois-Offally, Independent)

I begin by wishing the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, the very best of luck and every success in her new role. I begin on a positive point by noting the funding for the assessment of need has been put in place. We have the worst waiting list in Laois-Offaly so I am hoping that progress can be made in that regard.

The backlogs in terms of children on speech and language therapy and occupational therapy waiting lists is a very serious problem. Currently, 1,118 children have been waiting in excess of 12 months for occupational therapy while 159 children have been waiting in excess of 12 months for speech therapy. I am very concerned about that as a former teacher who spent some time teaching children with special needs. This problem needs to be tackled. I have met parents of children with special needs such as Laois Offaly Families for Autism, and they have done fantastic work in highlighting the issue. I hope that we can get to grips with this ongoing problem once and for all because it is having an effect on children's well-being and also their education.

I want to raise the issue of people with disabilities and the fact that the effective closure of day care services is ongoing. The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, came back to me with a parliamentary question on this very issue in July but I stress that it is important that we get these adults with intellectual disabilities back into the day services as soon as possible. I have been contacted by many families worried about their loved ones who are regressing. It is a very serious issue and one we need to get to grips with quickly.

The Minister of State referred to the guidance to support the framework for the resumption of adult disability services that was published by the HSE on 8 July 2020. I ask the Minister for an update on the implementation of the framework for the resumption of adult disability services. Have any significant obstacles been identified and, if so, what steps are being taken to address those obstacles? I know the Minister of State will appreciate that these are vital links for families and for the service users themselves and the loss of them has had a very negative impact on many of the people affected. I also understand that the day services were meant to resume gradually during August and that the service providers are working to get all those services ready to reopen safely and in line with public health guidance.

I would like an update on that. I would be grateful if the speech and language therapy waiting lists could be tackled in Laois-Offaly.


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