Thursday, 11 June 2015
Order of Business
Will the Deputy Leader arrange a debate on services for children with physical and mental disabilities? I know we have had a number of debates with the Minister before, but not specifically on children. There have been a number of reports in recent weeks about a lack of speech, language and occupational therapists. A number of campaign groups have sprung up throughout the State in places where, unfortunately, families of children with different forms of disabilities are engaged in battles with the State to get services for their children.
There are a number of problems, but the first problem is the absence sufficient therapists. As we know, therapists sit on diagnostic teams and assessment teams within the HSE. In the absence of enough therapists, especially senior speech and language therapists and child psychologists, the diagnostic teams are not in a position to provide the diagnoses and assessments as quickly as they should. In fact, while the HSE policy is that all children should be assessed within three months, we now know from replies to parliamentary questions to the Minister with responsibility for this area that many children are waiting longer than 12 months. We all accept that this is completely unacceptable.
I can give an example in my city of Waterford, where the senior child psychologist post is not filled. It is vacant. I was in discussions with senior management in the HSE. They are concerned about it because it is a specialised area and not a post that can be filled easily. They now have to look at buying in some of the services simply to carry on with the diagnostic assessments. I am fearful that children will have to wait longer for these assessments because of a vacuum in respect of these posts.
Will the Deputy Leader arrange for that debate, specifically on children with disabilities? We have had a number of debates with the Minister of State. In fairness to the Minister of State, she has been very good at coming in to the Seanad to discuss issues in respect of her brief. This is now a national story. It was covered in a number of national radio stations, some of which have worked with families, made freedom of information requests and obtained information in respect of the long waiting times. I call on the Deputy Leader to arrange for that debate as soon as possible.