CHILDREN in Cork are waiting the longest in the country for help with learning difficulties, problems with their social skills or adjusting their lives following a traumatic event with more than 450 children and teenagers waiting longer than a year for psychological assessments.
New figures released by the HSE show there are 615 children and teenagers in Cork waiting longer than six months to be seen for initial psychological assessments, with 456 waiting a year or longer.
Children and teenagers and their families are referred to psychologists for supportive therapies, usually for help with thinking and learning difficulties or with emotional problems such as anxieties, worries and fears.
They may also need a psychologist for behavioural difficulties or relationship difficulties within the family or issues they may have with toileting, sleeping or food.
The new figures show that at the end of June, there were 936 people in Cork on the waiting list for psychological assessments; Almost half (49%) of this waiting list was made up of children and teenagers waiting longer than a year for their first appointment.
In Cork South Lee, 224 children and teenagers under the age of 18 are waiting longer than a year to be seen, the figures show.
In Cork North Lee, 125 children and teenagers under the age of 18 are waiting longer than a year for their appointments.
In comparison, 76 children and teenagers are waiting longer than a year for their appointments in West Cork and a further 31 children are waiting longer than a year in North Cork.
According to the figures, just eight adults over the age of 18 in Cork are waiting longer than six months for their first appointment.
The figures also show that children and teenagers in the Cork and Kerry region wait the longest in the country, with 509 waiting on a list for a year or more for their appointment.
In the Dublin region, 78 children and teenagers are waiting longer than a year to be seen.
The long wait times for initial appointments are “totally unacceptable,”according to Fianna Fail spokesperson on health and Cork North Central TD Billy Kelleher.
The figures were released as part of a parliamentary question to the Deputy.
“The HSE is not delivering key services at a time when they are primarily needed,” Deputy Kelleher told the Evening Echo, calling for more recruitment of staff as well as an expansion of services.
“It’s not good enough for the HSE say there is a lack of staff, they need to be found.”
A spokesperson for the HSE said the service has been under pressure across Cork and Kerry for a number of reasons.
“Including the fact that staffing levels in this region are historically lower than other areas.“
“Pressures also come from the fact that the child population in this region is higher than the national average and from the increased number of applications for assessments under the Assessment of Need requirements as outlined by the Disability Act, 2005.”
“We acknowledge and regret the waiting times, and we are working to address them. We are glad to confirm that significant national funding has been allocated to Cork Kerry Community Healthcare which will allow for the recruitment of psychologists and assistant psychologists.”
Six Cork-based psychologists and 14 assistants have been allocated as part of this funding, a significant proportion of all new posts available nationally, the spokesperson added.
“We are hopeful this significant investment in staff will help redress the balance of posts per head of population.”