Group fighting for disability services delivers letter to Taoiseach

Micheál Martin was presented with the letter by a member of Families Unite for Services and Support (FUSS)
Group fighting for disability services delivers letter to Taoiseach

FUSS protestors outside City Hall, Anglesea Street, Cork City before a special sitting of Cork City Council. Taoiseach Michael Martin was heckled by protesters from FUSS as he made his way to the special meeting, Pic: Larry Cummins

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin was handed a letter this week by a group calling for urgent action to address concerns around children’s disability services in Ireland “detailing some of the issues facing children in his constituency”.

Mr Martin was presented with the letter by a member of Families Unite for Services and Support (FUSS) who were engaging in protest action on Wednesday evening outside Cork City Hall ahead of a special meeting of Cork City Council where the Taoiseach addressed elected members.

Speaking to The Echo ahead of the protest, FUSS member Rebecca O’Riordan claimed that the group has been asking “for months” to meet the Taoiseach in Cork but to no avail.

“We were told that if we maybe tried asking for a national meeting in Dublin but we’re parents of children with disabilities, most of us are either unpaid or on Carer’s Benefit or Carer’s Allowance - to ask us to go up to Dublin to meet our local elected representative after months of trying to get in contact with him is quite insulting to be honest,” she said.

 Protest outside City Hall, Cork City before a special sitting of Cork City Council. Taoiseach Michael Martin was heckled by protesters from FUSS as he made his way to the special meeting, Pic: Larry Cummins
Protest outside City Hall, Cork City before a special sitting of Cork City Council. Taoiseach Michael Martin was heckled by protesters from FUSS as he made his way to the special meeting, Pic: Larry Cummins

“There’s no urgency that we can see coming from him and obviously this crisis is not the result of one persons’ actions by any means, however, at the end of the day someone needs to take some responsibility for it.” Ms O’Riordan said the group would hand Mr Martin a letter ahead of the special council on Wednesday “detailing some of the issues facing children in his constituency”.

The letter, seen by The Echo, began:

“We call on you as our Taoiseach, our local representative, a citizen of this country and our neighbour, to act on the collapse of children's disability services with the urgency it so desperately requires.

“This crisis cannot be attributed to the actions of one person but ultimately one person must step up and take responsibility for it. We do not need any more excuses or promises, we need action.” Frances Hegarty was among the crowd of protestors on Wednesday criticising what she believes is an erosion of services for children with disabilities.

“They’ve been cut back, cut back, cut back over the years,” she told The Echo.

“This is my granddaughter”, Ms Hegarty said, pointing to a photograph she held.

“She’s three, she has epilepsy but she has another undiagnosed problem as well.” “An awful lot of the services have been cut back to such an extent that it’s non-existent,” Ms Hegarty continued.

Asked about the protest and the state of children's disability services in general when speaking to reporters in Cork yesterday, Mr Martin said he convened a meeting two weeks ago between the Health Service and the Education Department “in terms of provision for special needs”.

“On the education front we did start a new school in Carrigaline last year, a special school. We’ve acquired land in Glanmire in respect of a new special school and further educational development and there’ll be further investments in SNAs.

“Then in terms of the healthcare setting, we want also the special schools to be ringfenced in respect of therapies.

“The therapies would be restored to special schools over time.

“On the Progressing Disability, it’s administered by the HSE, there was a reconfiguration of the therapists and services, so we want special schools at a minimum to have that therapy service on site,” he said.

“Then more broadly, the big challenge as explained to us by the HSE has been recruitment of therapists.

15 yo Katie Byrne from Cobh, who has cerebral palsy, with her brother Jack and sister Abbie outside City Hall, Cork City before a special sitting of Cork City Council. Taoiseach Michael Martin was heckled by protesters from FUSS as he made his way to the special meeting, Pic: Larry Cummins
15 yo Katie Byrne from Cobh, who has cerebral palsy, with her brother Jack and sister Abbie outside City Hall, Cork City before a special sitting of Cork City Council. Taoiseach Michael Martin was heckled by protesters from FUSS as he made his way to the special meeting, Pic: Larry Cummins

“The funding exists for the recruitment of therapists both for assessment and also for intervention, and we’re going to spare no effort to invest and to get the therapists recruited to tend to the needs of children.

“On the equipment side, I’ve put that to the HSE that there should be no delays for children waiting for various aides and appliances that they need for their daily lives.

“I said to the HSE, the system needs to change on that in terms of the more rapid delivery of aids and appliances to children with additional needs,” Mr Martin continued.

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