Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Services for People with Disabilities
Conor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
I am responding to the Senator on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney.
The HSE has advised that the senior audiological scientist post in Galway has been vacant since 2002, as the Senator pointed out. The HSE has managed to secure the services of two sessional audiological scientists to provide a limited service from the period August 2008 to November 2009 and from May 2010 to the present. Strenuous efforts have been made to appoint an audiological scientist to address the needs of hearing-impaired children under the age of five years. In spite of repeated attempts to recruit someone with the appropriate qualifications, the HSE has been unsuccessful due to a scarcity of suitably qualified candidates.
The HSE is extremely conscious that the initial assessment and review of children is vital to ensure that they have the appropriate interventions and aids required for linguistic development and, as a consequence, improved social skills and educational capacity. The HSE has been granted a derogation from the public sector moratorium on recruitment in respect of this post. The HSE is at present in the process of recruiting a directly employed audiological scientist.
Interviews for the vacant audiological scientist post were held on 13 December 2010. Subject to a successful candidate being recommended, the panel will take effect on 20 December 2010. In the best-case scenario, it would take a few weeks to have the person in post. For example, a candidate from overseas may require a work permit, overseas police clearances and outside references. We are making progress on the matter and I hope a suitable person will be recommended by the interview panel. We take on board the concerns expressed by Senator Healy Eames regarding this matter and hope the post will be filled as quickly as possible. The failure to date is not so much a scandal but a reflection of a serious shortage of suitably qualified people. The Senator is well motivated in making her argument, as are the parents concerned, but it is not an argument that classically fits into the Government good-Opposition bad or Opposition bad-Government good dichotomies. It is simply a reflection of the lack of suitable candidates coming forward with the qualification in question.