13,000 children waiting more than six months for occupational therapy assessments

13,000 children waiting more than six months for occupational therapy assessments

More than 13,000 children have been waiting at least six months for an assessment for occupational therapy.

According to the HSE’s latest figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, there are just under 19,000 children waiting for a first-time assessment with an occupational therapist.

8,386 children have been waiting for over a year.

Of those waiting over 12 months, the highest amount is in Wexford, at 775.

Seven other regions also have over 500 kids waiting over a year for an assessment: Cavan-Monaghan, Mayo, north Cork, Dublin southwest, Kildare-West Wicklow, Laois-Offaly and Dublin north.

Three of the worst affected areas are Wexford, Dublin south-west and Mayo.

Suzanne Connolly, chief executive of children's charity Barnardos, says the waiting times have big consequences.

She said: "It affects their overall development because the first five years of a child's life is crucial. The more you can ensure that children get the specialist help they can benefit from when they need it,

"The more likely they can progress to their development potential quicker, so it's really important that it is done as soon as possible."

The HSE says it’s committed to delivering high-quality occupational therapy to all service-users, and last year there were over 382,000 attendances at its community occupational therapy clinics.

Suzanne Connolly said: "It is really worrying the length of time the children have been on the waiting list for occupational therapy which is likely to increase now that many HSE staff have been redeployed to work on Covid related tasks.

"In Barnardos, we think it is really important to say that the lifting of the restrictions really needs to give more attention than it has to date to children and their needs."

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