The waiting lists continue to grow in Dublin City and County at a pace that the HSE can clearly not cope with, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Referencing recent PQ submissions, Dublin Fingal TD, Deputy Alan Farrell, said the situation is becoming critical. Figures reveal that as of October 2022, the number of children waiting on an initial contact from the Children’s Disability Network Teams is 2,992.
In primary care, the number of those waiting for Occupational Therapy is 2,161 and 1,728 waiting on initial therapy for Speech and Language Therapy.
One of the most prominent statistics is the number of children awaiting an Assessment of Need. There are 1,245 waiting for some form of assessment within this process, including 513 at stage one which entails waiting for initial contact from the HSE once the referral is sent.
The HSE initiated a change of policy in 2013 to amalgamate the Early Intervention and the School Age Teams under an umbrella team, Children’s Disability Network Team. When the children on the Assessment of Need waiting list are assessed, if required, they will be then referred to the Children’s Disability Network Team. This also has a significant wait period, anywhere between 24 and 36 months.
The Children’s Disability Network Team was established in September 2021 in the Dublin Fingal constituency. The teams were established as an inter-disciplinary group to work with each family to develop an Individual Family Service Plan and support children and parents to reach goals identified on the plan. During a recent contribution in the Dáil, Deputy Farrell asked An Taoiseach Micheál Martin to intervene. An Taoiseach admitted this policy has watered down services offered to children, especially those children attending special schools.
Deputy Farrell said, “The HSE have continuously said they are exploring all options available to them to tackle the wait times. However, they believe that significant population growth has led to the increased wait times.
“Their recruitment drive and retention of staff programme is clearly not working. Minister Rabbitte recently admitted in Dáil Eireann that recruitment was more positive in other areas such as mental health but not in the disability services.”
Deputy Farrell continued, “This is extremely concerning and the HSE and Minister Rabbitte need to review why this is the case and what needs to be done to close the gaps in recruitment for disability services.
“In theory, this is a logical policy, children will not age out of services. The referral process should be more streamlined so that continuity of care is maintained for the children attending the services. In practice, this policy has blocked many children from accessing the assessments and therapies they need.
“In practice, children who need access to supports are waiting an incredibly long time because of this policy change,” concluded Deputy Farrell.
Deputy Farrell has written to Minister Anne Rabbitte with his concerns and outlined that Dublin City and County have some of the longest waiting times with the largest numbers of children waiting, he awaits her reply.