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 Header Item Disabilities Assessments (Continued)
 Header Item Bord na Móna

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 974 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath] Assessment of need compliance improvement plans are in place in all areas and are being actively monitored. Additional resources have been allocated to the areas with the most significant backlogs and those areas have shown a steady decrease in percentage of overdue assessments over the first six months of this year. HSE disability services is currently engaged in a major reconfiguration of its existing therapy resources for children with disabilities into multi-disciplinary geographically based teams, as part of its national programme on progressing disability services for children and young people, 0 to 18 years. The key objective of this programme is to bring about equity of access to disability services and consistency of service delivery, with a clear pathway for children with disabilities and their families to services, regardless of where they live, what school they go to or the nature of the individual child’s difficulties. Evidence to date from areas where this has been rolled out shows that implementation of this programme will also have a positive impact on waiting lists both for assessments of need and therapy provision. It is estimated that, on average, one in five children completing an assessment of need do not have a disability. As Deputy Smyth said, I want to focus on the children in most need, and 20% do not have a disability. The introduction of a new standard operating procedure, SOP, for carrying out assessments of need is expected to reduce the number of inappropriate referrals for assessment and will facilitate more timely access for children and young people. While the introduction of the SOP has been delayed by necessary discussions and consultations with professional bodies, I understand that this process is now entering its final stages.

The Deputy will also be aware that funding for an additional 100 therapy posts was secured as part of budget 2019. These additional posts, along with the reconfiguration of services and other initiatives outlined, are expected to have a significant positive impact on waiting times for assessment of need and ultimately therapy service delivery. It will also help meet the needs of children and young people in a more efficient, effective and equitable manner. I accept the Deputy's point about there being 177 children in Cavan and Monaghan. Something must be done. It is unacceptable that Cavan and Monaghan have been without an officer for nine months and that children are waiting for four years and five months. That is why I am pushing very strongly to resolve these issues.

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth The move by children from Enable Ireland to the child development team seems to be where the gap occurs and where children lose out on the interventions they need. They are getting lost in the transfer and there does not seem to be the continuity of care. As a result, these children are suffering. Parents tell me that while they are in Enable Ireland, the services are there and they get the intervention they need but once they reach six years of age, they go on to the child development team. It is heartbreaking to see people being told that they will have to wait up to four years and five months.

Nine months is too long for the system to lack the expertise and it must have exacerbated the problem in Cavan and Monaghan. I ask the Minister of State to take a positive bias towards the constituency to ensure the backlog is cleared and that parents can get the services they need in the turnaround time of three months laid out by the Department. Ultimately, if the interventions are not there early, there will be repercussions. It has a ripple effect at home, in school, and in school work and it is holding these children back from developing, and from getting the education they deserve and need. It is their basic right to have that. I ask the Minister of State to ensure that such positions do not lie vacant. Can he shine light on why such a position would lie vacant for nine months?

I welcome the additional posts to address the issue. They are needed and are welcome. I hope we will see the benefits for the children on those waiting lists.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I share Deputy Smyth's concerns and fully appreciate the frustration felt by parents and public representatives at excessive waiting times. I assure the Deputy that the HSE and myself are acutely aware of the urgency of this matter. The implementation of the compliance improvement plans, reconfiguration of services, the prioritisation of areas of greatest need, the standardisation of the assessment need process and the introduction of revised standard operating procedure are some of the many initiatives being undertaken by the HSE nationally to address the waiting times for assessments and needs. The Deputy referred to Enable Ireland and I agree about the continuity of care. There are vacancies and there is a problem getting people into posts. Recently, many occupational therapists, psychologists and speech and language therapists have returned from England and things are improving. A figure of 177 is something that we should make a dent in and make a positive contribution. It is a figure that could be targeted and dealt with by providing extra resources that could resolve the problem before it goes further out of control. The Deputy spoke of a positive intervention. I will make my views known to the HSE, which I am currently in talks over the extra funding in the budget 2019. I give a commitment that I will make it a priority issue.

Bord na Móna

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley I welcome the opportunity to address the Minister on this matter as it is a very important issue in Laois and Offaly. As a former employee of Bord na Móna, as were most of my family, I am very concerned about it.

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