Brain drain fears see call for more speech therapists

More speech and language therapists are needed to provide children with the services they need and to stop a ‘brain drain’ of graduates.

Brain drain fears see call for more speech therapists

That is according to the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists after a new working paper on the availability of speech and language& therapy said it was chronically under-resourced and unable to cope with demand.

Chairman Jonathan Linklater said the situation is “not a new one” and more resources are needed.

He said four training colleges are producing approximately 120 graduates a year, but in recent years many have emigrated because the HSE was not hiring speech and language &therapists.

“You can see why parents are going to get frustrated,” he said, admitting that current demand levels could not be met.

“If you can get an increase of speech and language therapists working in the system, that will create more sessions that people can avail of.”

There are more than 4,500 children waiting or likely to be assessed as needing speech and language therapy.

The working paper was commissioned by Inclusion Ireland whose chief executive, Paddy Connolly, called on Health Minister Leo Varadkar and the Government to step up efforts to resolve issues around the country on accessing a suitable service.

“The poorly planned, disjointed, and limited provision of speech and language therapy across the country means thousands of parents are fundraising and using their household income to purchase a service that should be publicly available,” said Mr Connolly.

“The failure of the public system to provide adequate speech and language therapy to children with special needs is an enduring crisis for the families affected. It is neither sustainable nor acceptable that families are borrowing money, depending on charity, or fundraising to provide what is a critical intervention for children with speech and language difficulties.”

One parent, Pamela O’Neill, said her son James had been on a waiting list for speech and language therapy for three years, and he is not yet five years old.

“As a family we have made a significant financial sacrifice in the past year to pay for private therapy, as many other parents have,” she said.

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