Unacceptable delays in assessments and follow-up treatment for children with additional needs in Cavan/Monaghan – Brendan Smith TD

Action needed 

Dáil Éireann Debate

Thursday, 14th November 2019

Progressing Children’s Disability Services: Statements

Deputy Brendan Smith 

I appreciate that the Minister of State has taken the opportunity on a number of occasions to meet groups and individuals on my request. Nevertheless, there is a large backlog of assessments of need and follow-up treatment in Cavan-Monaghan. Recently, two additional occupational therapy and physiotherapy posts were appointed for Cavan-Monaghan and both therapists have commenced their employment, which I welcome, but we want to examine the background of the large backlog and delays in providing necessary assessments and follow-up treatment for children. It was only at the beginning of November that the assessments of need commenced for Cavan-Monaghan. 

Currently, the wait for access to assessments and treatment by the child development team in Cavan-Monaghan, from the date of referral for occupational therapy and physiotherapy, is four years and six months. The figure for speech and language therapy is ten months, while in the case of psychology, treatment is provided only for children and young people in crisis, due to the increasing demands and complexity of the current caseload. That is the up-to-date position as of the end of last month, according to the HSE. It is clear the service is in crisis and additional resources, therapists and clinicians are needed to provide even a modest level of service to children and families in desperate need of securing necessary supports for their children. 

We in County Cavan are fortunate to have an Enable Ireland service that covers the Cavan-Monaghan area. Some 275 children access Enable Ireland services in counties Cavan and Monaghan, while a further 162 children wait to be assessed. The figures paint a stark picture of the need for a massive improvement in the delivery of assessments and follow-up treatment, if needed. I have brought the Minister of State to meet groups. He visited the area and we appreciate his personal commitment, but we need promises to be honoured, resources delivered and clinicians put in place because far too many families are desperate due to the lack of services provided for their children. In recent weeks, a number of families have contacted me to say that even though they cannot afford to do so, they are sourcing private services. It is unfair in the first instance that the children who need treatment do not get it, and it is further unfair that families have the additional burden of trying to source private assessments and follow-up treatment because the State fails to deliver it. 

There is an urgent need to improve dramatically the services currently available in my constituency and I recognise there are problems elsewhere throughout the country.