Tuesday, 19 October 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
95. To ask the Minister for Health the number of persons currently awaiting an assessment of need under the Disability Act 2005 in each local health office area in CHO 5; the corresponding figures for each area at the end of June 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50605/21]
How many people are awaiting an assessment of need under the Disability Act 2005 in each local health office area in CHO 5 and what are the corresponding figures for each area at the end of June 2020?
I thank the Deputy for raising the question and for the opportunity to answer it. In August 2020, additional Sláintecare funding of €7.8 million was provided to the HSE to address the issue of overdue assessments of need. The funding was provided on a once-off and strictly time bound basis to eliminate all assessments of need overdue by 30 June 2020. While the number of overdue assessments of need stood at 6,558 in June 2020, through a combination of different measures, by the end of September 2021, approximately 6,040 children have had their assessment completed, which is an overall reduction of 92%.
I am pleased to inform the Deputy that six CHOs, including CHO 5, which had 643 overdue assessments of need at the end of June 2020 have now cleared their backlog. The breakdown of the 643 overdue assessments were 80 in Carlow-Kilkenny; 111 in Tipperary south riding; 168 in Waterford; and 284 in Wexford. The number of overdue assessments at the end of June 2021 in CHO 5, which is the latest figure available, was reduced to 180. There were 19 in Carlow-Kilkenny; 54 in Tipperary south riding; 59 in Waterford; and 48 in Wexford. The Deputy will also be aware 91 children’s disability network teams will be reconfigured in the coming weeks.
In budget 2022, we are providing additional funding for the recruitment of therapists and administrative staff. As the Minister said, our focus in on changing to a more agile approach in how we will do the interventions. While we have cleared the assessments of need, now it is all about intervention with occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech, language therapists and psychologists and us all working together as a collective team within health to ensure backlogs start to clear and waiting times for the delivery of services are reduced. I am confident with the €10 million the Minister has allocated to me in budget 2022 that work will start now and the HSE is ready to deliver it.
I welcome the funding of €7.8 million, which is crucial. The reduction of 92% in the waiting list nationally is impressive and I know this is something to which the Minister of State has been committed. I welcomed her to Carlow where she had given that commitment. I welcome the reduction, especially in my constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny. The challenge is to build on that and ensure those who have been assessed for a need get the service they need as quickly as possible. We all know there have been significant waiting lists for speech and language assessments and therapy, and occupational therapy. We all know of the waiting lists for young children. This is so important. What are the Minister of State's plans with her Department to do this again? Does she have a timeframe, because, with children in particular, timing is crucial?
Let us be very clear. In budget 2021, I secured 100 therapy posts and halfway through the year, because of the way the progressing disability services model, PDS, was rolling out, I was fortunate, along with the Minister, to secure an additional 85 therapists posts. Coming out of budget 2022, we have secured 190 therapist and administrative staff. They will be added to the 91 teams and we are adding the administrative staff. The purpose of the administrative staff is I have speech and language and occupational therapists and physiotherapists filling out their paperwork. I need them delivering the intervention and the service. The purpose of having those administrative staff will ensure our therapists are delivering the service. I am confident with the €10 million, my action plan will start to reduce the waiting list and backlog and the number of people getting those horrendous letters. It is important for me to say the horrendous letters the HSE send out without having a full assessment done is very unfair on parents.
I welcome the Minister of State's comment that the letters sent out by the HSE are very unfair on parents and that is unacceptable. That is something she said she would also address and I welcome that. I also welcome all the 190 new therapist posts the she has secured. That reflects pure dedication and commitment and I know how committed she is. Will she set targets for assessment and treatment? If someone was to contact his or her occupational therapist or whatever, will be there be a timeframe? I acknowledge how committed the Minister of State is. Communication is vital for the parents and children, but the HSE also needs to play a bigger part in this. There has been a lack of communication and I ask the Minister of State to work on that. I thank her for getting all this funding in the budget, because, I know how hard she has worked to secure this.
I am a stickler for timelines. Key performance indicators will be set. Let there be no doubt about this. I will know exactly how many are on each team. I will know what the caseload is and I will meet with HSE officials on a monthly basis, with each of the CHOs and out of that, I will have the team leads and they will tell me exactly what they are delivering in respect of occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, psychology and behavioural therapy. I will monitor them on a month-by-month basis. Once a month, I will sit down with all the team leads in disability services. There will be no hiding on the delivery of service. There will be no hiding under the rock from knowing what will be done. There will be open transparency and I will save every Deputy the trouble of tabling a parliamentary question wondering exactly where we are, because, I will release the figures on a monthly basis. There will be no hiding on this. We need to ensure there is complete and utter delivery of service for the families and, most important, the little ones who need that access-timely intervention. That is why I have been allocated the €10 million to which I am grateful to the Minister for having received.