The significant increase in the number of third level places available in healthcare courses from September is a huge step towards addressing access to essential therapies supporting disability services, a Fine Gael group has said.
Deputy Emer Higgins, Senator Micheál Carrigy, Senator Emer Currie and Senator Mary Seery Kearney have broadly welcomed the news, saying the impact of the additional third level places cannot be underestimated.
“This is a very encouraging announcement, both for aspiring healthcare professionals and those who have battled relentlessly to access disability therapies,” said Senator Mary Seery Kearney, who is a member of the Children, Disability, Integration and Youth Oireachtas Committee. “All of us public representatives engage regularly with people with disabilities or their advocates and that they must face barriers to accessing services is both heart-breaking and immensely frustrating.
“Minister Harris engaged with us on all the issues we raised and by providing these additional third level places and has shown great commitment to providing more real pathways for both professionals and service users. That they come on stream from September is another positive – the time for action is now.
“We thank Minister Harris for his continued engagement with us on this issue. An additional 565 extra places in medicine, nursing and pharmacy will be available from September, enabling better access for our students to these professions, where they can build rewarding careers,” said Deputy Emer Higgins, who is a member of the Disability Matters Oireachtas Committee.
In addition, an additional 100 places in the undergraduate intake in key therapies, including 50 places available in Northern Ireland is to be provided.
“I am very pleased to see the roll-out of Post-Leaving Cert courses to train speech and language therapists assistants in five Education and Training Boards, with an estimated 120 students expected on these programmes,” said Senator Micheál Carrigy, who is Chairperson of the Autism Oireachtas Committee.
“There are currently long waiting lists for assessment of needs for people with disabilities, and once a diagnosis has been made, there are insufficient professionals within the system to provide the badly needed services and therapies that should follow. Early intervention is key, and I am very encouraged that these additional third level places will bring about the changes needed to adequately support families. Work is also ongoing to see more places created for September 2024.”
Senator Emer Currie said: “I, along with my Fine Gael colleagues, previously called for more investment in third-level places for therapies like SLTs, OTs, and psychologists to ensure our healthcare services have the qualified staff they need to deliver the care families so desperately need. An additional 100 undergraduate places in speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy across the island is a very positive step.
“A revived and innovative approach to children’s disabilities is crucial in increasing therapy services and the further and higher education sector has a critical role to play. Minister Harris demonstrates a commitment to that today and continues to open up new avenues for learners.”
“Broadening the opportunity for training in key healthcare courses will be key if we are to make significant inroads into the current waiting lists. There are plans for consideration in this regard already and I look forward to a continuation of innovative solutions to delivering high quality healthcare professionals in a timely fashion,” concluded Senator Seery Kearney.