Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


2:30 pm

Photo of Catherine ArdaghCatherine Ardagh (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I refer to the autism spectrum disorder, ASD, units attached to schools and the lack thereof. There is a serious lack of these units in schools in Dublin 6, Dublin 6W, Dublin 8 and Dublin 12. I asked my colleague Deputy James Browne to table a question to the Minister to ask how many persons were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the south central area of Dublin. We received a reply from the HSE stating there was no comprehensive national or local children's disability database that gathered data for children with autism spectrum disorder or other diagnostic groups. That is remarkable, especially when huge funds are allocated to autism services. It is most important to find out where the children who need these services are in order that funds can be directed accordingly. There is a huge demand for ASD units in the Dublin 6, 6W, 8 and 12 areas. The lack of statistics alone shows how low this issue is on the Government's agenda. Will the Leader bring this matter to the attention of the Minister to ensure accurate statistics will be gathered and that we will allocate funding on the basis of those statistics to ensure the children who need these services will receive them?

The second issue I would like to raise concerns the early childhood care and education scheme. This fantastic scheme was introduced by Fianna Fáil. One of the problems with it is that it is so fantastic that many crèches are closing their new baby wards such that families are finding it very difficult to find childcare places for babies aged from six to 12 months. This is creating problems. Crèches are closing their baby rooms because their toddler rooms are so successful under the scheme. I ask the Minister to take a look at this and look at ways by which we can ensure people will have access to childcare places for very young babies. The final issue I wish to raise concerns WhatsApp. I was extremely surprised to learn there had been a hacking of WhatsApp and that spyware or malware has infiltrated the application. It is an application many of us use on a daily basis and we all have many groups on it. I encourage people to ensure they download the update. We all must be careful of the applications we use on our phones and ensure they are secure. Perhaps we need to consider the introduction of further legislation to ensure that what has occurred in this instance does not happen again and to heighten awareness among people to ensure their phones are constantly upgraded and the apps downloaded on phones are renewed to ensure they are not vulnerable to malware or spyware.


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