CHILDREN with special needs in Cork are being denied access to crucial services because of two-year waiting lists for an initial assessment of their condition.
Waiting times for an assessment of need, the first step in accessing appropriate services, have been described as scandalous.
Children across Cork and Kerry are waiting two years, despite the fact that assessment should be completed within six months, according to the HSE’s own guidelines.
The assessment is crucial for children with autism or other learning and development difficulties to enable them to access appropriate services. The delays mean many children are being denied the early intervention treatment that medical professionals say is crucial.
Waiting times for an initial appointment at the three facilities which provide assessments in Cork now stand at 24 months.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described the current waiting times as “absolutely scandalous”.
“Assessment of need is an essential first step, followed by timely and targeted interventions. These children are being denied their basic rights and entitlements and their parents are extremely worried and upset that these assessments are not being done in a timely manner.
“The importance of early intervention cannot be overstated, and without an assessment of need, children with disabilities cannot access basic services such as speech and language therapy or obtain SNA support while in school.”
Mr Martin pointed to the fact that 864 children are awaiting an assessment in Cork where the three agencies who deal with such cases — Brothers of Charity, Cope Foundation, and St Joseph’s Foundation — all have two-year waiting lists.
“The issue does not relate solely to assessment of need, it also impacts intervention — things like speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy,” he said. “These children are being denied a fair start in life.”
Cork Kerry Community Healthcare recently told The Echo that disability services in the region have been “significantly challenged” in terms of the volume of applications for assessments.