A CORK autism charity has seen its waiting list rise by almost 100 families in just over three months.
The Rainbow Club in Cork, which currently offers support to more than 700 families, has called for the government to provide funding so the service can expand.
The service had around 230 families on its waiting list in November last year, a figure that has since risen to more than 310.
Karen O’Mahony, who founded the Rainbow Club with her husband John in 2015, said the HSE need to provide more support to children and parents.
Ms O’Mahony accused the health service of abandoning its own policy to provide an assessment of needs for children within three months.
“The waiting lists for an Assessment of Needs and services in Cork are just ridiculous,” she said.
“We’ve had parents say their child is waiting around three years.
“It’s the HSE’s policy and they’re not standing by it,” she added.
Ms O’Mahony applied for an Assessment of Needs (AON) for her son nine years ago. Following an appeal, he received his assessment three months late. Ms O’Mahony said things have only gotten worse.
“In the years since then, there have been massive delays in it, developing year after year.
“The AON is supposed to be delivered within three months but that is just not happening,” she added.
Ms O’Mahony said she knows of several Cork families who have taken cases against the HSE for their failure to provide AONs in the time frame promised.
“Lots of families have taken private cases against the HSE because without an AON, they can’t get services, school places or support.
“The AON is probably the most vital piece of paper a child with special needs can have,” she explained. “They can’t even access preschools or home tuition without it. The cost of going to court is massive as well. It shouldn’t have come to this, parents and families should not be put under even more stress,” she added.
Ms O’Mahony said that a lack of school places for children with special needs is putting pressure on parents and schools.
“This year, there is a massive panic on because there just aren’t enough school places for this September. I know there is a two-year waiting list for some special needs schools in Cork.
“Some local schools are trying to add more rooms to their services and add more capacity,” she added.
“They’re under massive strain.”