Parents of children with disabilities are set to protest on the streets of Cork today as they call for urgent action to address concerns around children’s disability services in Ireland.
Members of Families Unite for Services and Support held a successful march last month to highlight the issues affecting them. The march was attended by more than 200 people.
Members of the group have said that they have seen no real change since taking part in a day of action on May 6 and continue to fight for immediate outsourcing of assessments to tackle assessment of need waitlists; for the issue of access to personalised budgets for respite care to be addressed; a timeframe for the return of all therapists (redeployed during progressing disability services rollout) to special schools; and a commitment to end the practice of families requiring personal loans for vital equipment that they are entitled to under GMS.
The group is also calling for an actionable and fully costed Workforce Planning Strategy to tackle difficulties across the sector in recruitment and retention of staff, a timeline for the implementation of Parent Forums promised under the 2011 plan for progressing disability services and an update on the UNCRPD Optional Protocol and its ratification in Ireland.
Members said that since the march last month issues have come to light which they say “further emphasise the failed roll out of progressing disability services”.
“Over 100,00 children languish on wait lists across the country including 7,200 children awaiting psychology review and over 13,450 on primary care speech and language therapy lists.
“Let’s not forget the ‘autism centres’ saga, an ‘interim’ proposal floated by the Department of Education to tackle the lack of special education needs school places. We continue to watch helplessly as our children regress. We look on as they are denied school places unlike their neighbours and friends.
“They sit in pain in equipment that is too small or unsuitable for their needs. They are slowly disappearing from their communities while their families wait for a lifeline that we are consistently told is coming,” said a spokesperson for Families Unite for Services and Support.
The spokesperson said that parents of children with disabilities in Cork and across the country are calling on the Government to ask themselves why staff are leaving in droves.
“It is clear that services have been in crisis for a very long time but without the urgent implementation of Parent Forums outlined in key documents as far back as 2011 things will only continue to decline,” the spokesperson said.
The event, which will take place at Grand Parade in the city at 2pm, is being supported by Inclusion Ireland, Family Carers Ireland, opposition TDs and Seanad members Tom Clonan and Mary Seery Kearney.