Speech therapists forced to emigrate

ONLY one of this year’s 98 speech and language therapy graduates has been offered a permanent position with the Health Service Executive despite nationwide waiting lists that range from nine months to four years.

Due to an ongoing recruitment freeze, it is understood that only one of 25 appointments made within the HSE this year was on a permanent basis.

This lack of full-time opportunities now means that highly skilled Irish professionals are opting to travel to Britain, New Zealand, Australia and North America to find work.

Typical among them are recent UCC graduates, Isis Cooper, Aoife O’ Brien and Doireann Lordon, all natives of Cork, who are emigrating to Canada next month.

All three had interviews with the HSE this year, but do not expect to receive an offer in the near future.

“We feel let down as there was a lot of promise of job opportunities, and we were reassured the profession would be funded,” said Ms O’Brien, 26, who leaves for Toronto next month.

“It is difficult to see things getting better, especially in the current climate,” she said.

“It just doesn’t seem to be a priority at the moment for the HSE,” she said.

As outlined in the Bacon report (2003), Ireland has an urgent need for additional speech and language therapists to meet the demand for services.

The Government reacted to the report by generating college places, but has failed to create more jobs.

“We knew there were going to be more graduates, but there was supposed to be more jobs created too,” said Ms O’Brien, who maintains children are in need of immediate help.

“The situation is dire. I was on work placement in Wexford and I saw children waiting four years,” she said.

Studies have shown the detrimental effect delayed speech therapy can have on a child.

Linda Kelly, another SLT graduate with no work, said children left waiting for therapy can develop behavioural problems due to frustration.

“Children might be first seen at two, but not treated until they are four or five,” she said.

“They are falling back in school because of it.”

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