Latest Laois News: Laois/Offaly Child Services Raised in Dáil
Laois/Offaly Child Services Raised in Dáil – Stanley
Speaking in the Dáil last week local Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley said;
“It has been the case for many years in Laois-Offaly that there have been long waiting lists for services such as child psychology, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy. However, the situation is now truly awful. Action is needed now to deal with the backlog of children in these two counties who have been waiting for several years to access these services. It is a scandal that 4,771 children are waiting for services in these three specialties. What is worse is that some of those children, 2,650 of them to be accurate, have been waiting for more than one year to be given an appointment for assessment or appropriate therapy. The damage being done to children who may have autism, ASD, or some other condition is immeasurable.
Some 2,014 children are on the waiting list for occupational therapy, with 1,181 of those children waiting for more than 12 months. In the area of child psychology, 1,304 children are on the waiting list, 801 of whom have been waiting for more than a year. There are 1,453 children in the queue for speech and language services, with 568 of those children waiting for longer than 12 months. Does the Government understand this is storing up massive problems for the future? If appropriate interventions and services are not provided at an early stage in a child’s development, more difficulties and more complex issues will arise in adulthood.
Aside from the difficulties being caused to children, these waiting lists are also causing great stress and many problems for parents and families. They have been watching their children regressing and have then had to deal with the resultant behavioural issues. It is important therefore that we try to rectify this situation. This area appears to have been a blackspot in this regard for many years. I was raising this issue some 20 years ago as a county councillor, but these services are in crisis now. Action is needed. I have raised it with the management of the HSE and with successive Ministers.
The real issue here concerns the provision of services where they are needed, which is on the front line.
There is a problem with people applying for these positions because sometimes they are offered only six-month or 12-month contracts and people do not find them attractive enough to apply for. We need to offer people full-time positions whereby those who get through a 12-month probationary period will be over the line and will have a permanent job.
Minister Anne Rabbitte replied:
“I have tried to get to the exact root of the issue raised by Deputy Stanley. This has been a priority issue for me since being appointed in July.
I have discussed this matter with the HSE previously, as there appear to be several challenges in the community healthcare organisation.
The aim is to recruit staff to fill all vacant psychology posts as soon as possible, but the recruitment of staff grade clinical psychologists is dependent on the number of clinical psychologists graduating this year.
There are two vacant occupational therapy posts in Laois-Offaly children’s disability services and every effort is being made by the local HSE to fill these posts as quickly as possible. Two speech and language therapy posts are vacant in Laois as a consequence of maternity leave, with one person due to return this month. In addition, there is one permanent vacancy and this post is due to be filled next month. In more positive news, the Deputy will be glad to hear that three posts which had been vacant were filled within the past month. As the Deputy may be aware, I secured funding for an additional 100 new therapy posts in the recent budget and I hope to see some of these posts allocated to the Laois-Offaly area in due course.
It is also important to inform Deputy Stanley that I met with CORU last week, which is the organisation responsible for recognising and validating the qualifications of those people who may have returned from overseas and granting them a place on the professional registers. I am working with CORU to ensure that task is undertaken speedily. It is often a fear that short term contracts are intended only to bridge the gap for 6 or 12 months’’
Following the replies from Minister Rabbitte, Deputy Stanley said:
“I intend to continue monitoring progress and clearing these waiting lists.’’