By Michelle Devane, PA
Children with special needs have been failed by the State, the Dail has heard.
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said youngsters have been “left in limbo” by long delays in being assessed.
He said there are 17,000 children waiting on initial contact with a children’s disability team and 2,500 awaiting or overdue an assessment of needs.
“The situation is dire and it is continuing to get worse year after year under your Government,” he said, addressing the Tánaiste.
“The number of these assessments carried out by the HSE has plummeted.
“Thousands of children have been failed by the state, left in limbo while they wait for care that they’re entitled.
“Your ministers were out this week with announcements in the budget that sound impressive on the glossy surface.
“But when you scratch beneath the budgetary spin, it is clear that you haven’t responded adequately to the situation.
“The vast majority of money that you announced this week is to stand still, not speed up the delivery of assessments or the badly needed services that should follow these assessments.
“Your own disability capacity review made it clear the levels of funding that were required to meet the needs of children and adults across the state.
“You provided a fraction of what was required, and in doing so Tanaiste, once again – just like last year, and the year before – you will fail the children and many others like them.”
In response, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the system where children have to undergo an assessment of need before being given the therapies they require must be revisited.
He said there are a “lot of delays” in assessments and fixing the matter is not just about funding.
Mr Varadkar said: “We’ve seen a huge increase in spending on health and disability in recent years. But money doesn’t just solve problems.
“You need to recruit and retain staff, which is a challenge here and everywhere around the world at the moment.
“And also you need to be able to make sure that your systems work well. And I think perhaps we need to consider a change of approach here.
“The system we have at the moment, which is you wait for your assessment of need before you get the interventions, perhaps isn’t the best one.
“Where it is obvious that a child needs a particular intervention or a particular therapy, why don’t we just provide that straightaway?
“I think we need to provide additional resources, which is happening, additional staff, which is a challenge, but perhaps you also need to look at the system, the approach that we’ve taken to date and whether that could be improved.”