Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams has criticised the Government’s failure to provide timely assessment and intervention for children who require occupational therapy (OT).
Teachta Adams made the following remarks on receipt of response to a parliamentary question (PQs 11387/17 – 11390/17) on OT assessment which confirms 4,186 children on the waiting list across the State and 711 on the Louth waiting list.
“These are disgusting figures in a State with ample resources to address this problem.
“Early diagnosis and intervention is essential to enable these children to get the supports they need to achieve to the best of their ability both at school and in their general lives.
“The Government is presiding over a system in which children with queried disabilities are waiting two years for initial assessment and a further two years for therapy.
“The truth is that many children caught up in this rotten system will be left school before any support is forthcoming. What are their life chances following years of denied assistance?
“I have spoken to numerous parents of children who are on the waiting list for OT assessment.
“These children have largely been referred for assessment by their schools, so an obvious need has been identified by teachers.
“It is an absolute shame on this government, and all government TDs, that there are 179 children under five years old and 532 between the ages of five and 18 in County Louth who have not even been assessed, much less received any necessary therapy.
“I have spoken to parents who have gone without meals themselves in order to procure private OT assessments for their kids, when faced with a 2 year waiting list.
“These private assessments can cost in the region of €500, which is simply beyond the reach of many parents.
“Yet, as this PQ reply states, even with a diagnosis of dyspraxia or dyslexia or autism or one of any number of disabilities, the HSE requires all children to be assessed within the public system in order to obtain follow up therapy.
“I support the fair allocation of State resources but I contend that this Government, not content with forcing parents to seek private OT assessments, is in actual fact forcing parents to also pay for private therapy on receipt of a diagnosis.
“What parent, with any means available, who’s child has been privately assessed and needs therapy, will not go without themselves to purchase the therapy also, rather than watch their child struggle for two years or more?
“Is life not challenging enough for these children and their families without a 4 year wait for State support?
“The Government and the Minister for Health must urgently direct resources to address these waiting lists. It is time to sort out the recruitment issues which mean that these children go without.