Over 200 people gather in Cork to voice concerns about lack of services for children with disabilities

Parents of children with disabilities took to the streets of Cork today to voice their concerns about a lack the lack of services being provided.
Over 200 people gather in Cork to voice concerns about lack of services for children with disabilities

Sarah O'Brien, Yvonne McMahon, Leanne Kearney, Katie Byrne and Orla Christian during the FUSS march in Cork city where parents took to the streets to voice their concerns about the lack of disability services being provided to their children. Photo: Breda Graham.

Over 200 people gathered on the streets of Cork this morning to protest a lack of disability services.

Cork campaigners, who have joined forces under the recently established Families Unite for Services and Support (FUSS), a group that supports parents of children with disabilities, gathered at Grand Parade before marching through the streets of the city centre.

Elsewhere in the country, members of the group, which was founded by Meath-based Rachel Martin, gathered outside Leinster House in Dublin and in Enniscorthy Town Square in Wexford.

Oraganiser of the Cork event, Rebecca O’Riordan highlighted what the group of concerned parents, who have said they are now “on our knees”, are calling for.

“We are calling for the immediate outsourcing of assessments of need to clear waiting lists, a costed and implementable recruitment and retention programme to deal with the fact they are haemorrhaging staff to the private sector, implementation of the parent forums outlined in key documents as far back as 2011 which are key to the early identification of issues in the roll out of the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme (PDS) model and a commitment to end the difficulties accessing personal budgets for respite and vital equipment these children need to simply exist.”

Alison Burke holding a photo of her son Cadáin during the FUSS march in Cork city where parents took to the streets to voice their concerns about the lack of disability services being provided to their children. Photo: Breda Graham.
Alison Burke holding a photo of her son Cadáin during the FUSS march in Cork city where parents took to the streets to voice their concerns about the lack of disability services being provided to their children. Photo: Breda Graham.

One of the major concerns of parents with school-age children is the removal of therapists from schools which they say occurred when Cork Kerry Community Healthcare (CKCH) reconfigured children’s disability services to Children’s Disability Network Teams (CDNTs) under the national Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme (PDS) in April, 2021.

PDS is a significant national change programme for the provision of services and support for children from birth to 18 years of age, in line with Sláintecare and the Programme for Government.

The primary objective in the development of CDNTs is to have “equity of access to services” for all children and their families.

Parents involved in the newly established FUSS group march in Cork city to voice their concerns about the lack of disability services being provided to their children. Photo: Breda Graham.
Parents involved in the newly established FUSS group march in Cork city to voice their concerns about the lack of disability services being provided to their children. Photo: Breda Graham.

Parents of children with disabilities, however, have said that their children are “being denied a constitutional right”.

Orla Christian, whose son Michael Barry from Blarney, better known as ‘Superman - Michael’s Little Steps’, was born with a rare genetic condition called L1cam syndrome and Aqueduct Stenosis said that they are “not backing down” until adequate services are offered.

Speaking to The Echo at the march on Friday, Ms Christian said: “The reason I came to this protest was to support families like mine and let the HSE know that we’re not backing down and I'm actually quite pleased to say that there were over 200 people here today.”

Speaking at an event in Cork on Friday afternoon, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that he will be meeting shortly with the HSE to discuss the issue of children’s disability services, and that current policy needs to be reviewed “in its entirety”.

“I think there have been concerns particularly in the Cork area in terms of progressing disability, which has taken some teachers from special schools. Minister Anne Rabbitte has worked with the HSE in that regard to try and get that reversed and get therapists back into the schools,” he said.

“I will be meeting with the HSE shortly in relation to this issue. Progressive disability has been policy for about 10 years now. It is progressing slowly, but in my view we cannot dilute the existing services and spread them more thinly. That was never on this government's agenda. And we have allocated resources for more therapists. We don't want to see children losing access to services or reducing access to services. So I think we need to review this in its entirety,” he added.

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