Thursday, 25 February 2021
Topical Issue Debate
In the ten years I have been raising this issue, this is the first time that I have had some hope. It seems that, as the Minister of State outlined, the Department has intervened and that she has taken it up with the HSE. Sometimes we raise such issues in the House and express our concern and so on, but we do not get firm answers. The Minister of State, however, has outlined some reasons for hope in respect of recruitment to the disability services. She referred to the recruitment of clinical psychologists and stated that every effort is being made to fill the vacant occupational therapist posts, something I will come back to in a moment. She went on to state that speech and language posts that are vacant as a consequence of maternity leave are being addressed, and that is positive. There is some hope to be found in the announcement of 100 additional therapist posts in the recent budget, as well as in the effort to recruit practitioners who are returning from overseas. That is excellent.
There is a difficulty with recruitment that I wish to raise, although I do not know the exact ins and outs of it. I have been told there is a problem with people applying for these positions because sometimes they are offered only six-month or 12-month contracts and people do not find them attractive enough to apply for. We need to offer people full-time positions whereby those who get through a 12-month probationary period will be over the line and will have a permanent job.
I always get the impression that the HSE is very top-heavy. The Minister of State outlined some progress on trying to fill the gaps on the front line, which is really important. I encourage her to accelerate that and to examine the terms of the contracts being offered. Is the length of such contracts an issue and if so, can the Minister of State have that addressed in an effort to drive it on? It is a severe disappointment to me. It is one of the issues that I prioritised when I was first elected to the House ten years ago. I came to this debate with a heavy heart. I thought I was in here again raising this issue and would probably go home with no progress. The Minister of State has outlined some progress that has been made and I hope that is the case. She should keep her foot on the pedal and drive it on. She has our full support in that regard. She might comment on the issue of contracts and how they might be made more attractive.