15,000 children waiting up to two years for speech and language assessments

More than 15,000 children with serious speech and language difficulties must wait up to two years to access basic initial assessments, while cutbacks mean hundreds more are not even making it onto the lists.

The situation, which one TD has called a “national disgrace”, was revealed in HSE figures, and follows previous concerns over how large parts of the country have no early intervention teams to help children with developmental delays.

Information supplied to Fianna Fáil spokesman for disability, mental health, and special needs, Colm Keaveney, via a parliamentary response, shows that 15,776 children were forced to wait significant lengths of time to access initial assessment checks at the start of this year.

The records show 8,954 children were waiting four months to access an initial assessment, 3,394 were waiting four to eight months, 1,789 for eight to 12 months, and 1,639 for between one and two years.

Dublin has the longest waiting lists, with 5,192 children unable to access initial assessments within a reasonable timeframe — including 246 who have been told to wait for between one and two years.

Since June 2012, no new applicants have been allowed onto waiting lists in Dublin due to capacity issues, meaning hundreds more children are not even counted in the figures.

In Cork, 1,257 children are unable to access the care they need.

Although a number of areas reported having no children waiting more than a year, Mr Keaveney said vulnerable children are still being hit by cutbacks in the health service.

“These latest revelations are further evidence that the HSE’s service for the basic assessment and treatment of children with disabilities is grossly inadequate,” he said. “It makes a complete mockery of the whole concept of ‘early intervention’.

“Not only are the waiting lists in Dublin much higher than other parts of the country, the figures actually mask the true extent of the problem as the HSE has, in fact, closed its Dublin waiting lists to all new applicants since June 2012.

“So on top of the 5,192 children in Dublin waiting for a speech and language assessment, there are hundreds more that cannot even get on a waiting list.

“To allow this to continue would be a national disgrace. These latest figures exposing the true extent of the crisis must act as a wake-up call to Health Minister James Reilly.

“There is no excuse for not providing the funding to give the most basic level of support to children with special needs.”

Last month, HSE records revealed by the HSE showed large sections of the country have no early intervention teams to help children with speech and language difficulties.

The February figures confirmed that Dublin and Cork City have no early intervention teams for those in need of speech and language, occupational, and physiotherapy help.

The same service gap is apparent in Carlow, Kilkenny, Kildare, and Wicklow, while there are just 58 early intervention teams tasked with supporting 6,399 children across the country.


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