Cork and Kerry disability waits ‘worst in country’

“Unacceptable” long delays for disability assessments in Cork are the result of a major staff shortage, the HSE has admitted.

The waiting times for assessment for children with disability in the Cork and Kerry region have been branded as the “worst in the country”.

The Report on the Future Needs of Disability Services (April 2018) estimated an additional 400 posts are required to provide adequate staffing levels to meet the demand for children’s disability services.

However, just 100 posts to children’s disability network teams across the HSE are to come on stream this year.

Documents sent by the HSE to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, seen by the Irish Examiner, reveal the total number of disability assessments awaiting completion in Cork City and County at the end of November 2018 was 1,012.

While this is a reduction from the 1,747 in March, Mr Martin, a TD for Cork South Central, said that the ongoing delays are not acceptable.

“It is totally unacceptable in the 21st century, and up to 14 years after the Disability Act is passed to ensure that children who need their assessment of need done has clear time guidelines.

“This is to allow all children to be given the best chance they can get before they go to school.

“These timelines also allow parents to believe that their children are getting the best chance.

“Unfortunately and shamefully, they are not. The waiting times in Cork and Kerry are the worst in the country.

Even after children are assessed, they have to wait all over again for occupational or speech therapy. It seems to be a never-ending line of frustration for children and parents.

“Extra resources are needed to address this and monies have to be allocated in 2019 to ensure that children receive the most basic of treatments.

“It’s all very well talking about economic growth and good employment figures but if children are not getting these very basic and essential services the system is failing them and this has to dramatically change in 2019.”

The HSE has said there are 56 teams already established under this programme across the country and a remaining 82 to be set up in the coming year, 10 of these will be based in the areas in Cork.

The total number of applications for assessment has more than doubled in 10 years (from 2,535 in 2008 to 5,814 in 2017 — an 129% increase), the HSE said.

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