‘Appalling’ three and half year wait for a language therapist

By Mary Dennehy

A THREE-and-a-half year wait for a speech and language therapist in Dublin South West has been branded “appalling” by TD Sean Crowe, who claims that the concept of early intervention is being “rubbished”.

As reported in The Echo, there is a 42-month wait for children accessing speech and language support from the HSE’s School Age Team – which, operating out of Chamber House in Tallaght, caters for children over the age of six.

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Louise Riordan, Vanessa Murphy, Sharon Condren Melic and Pamela Kenny from Enough is Enough protesting outside Chamber House for services earlier this year 

The HSE confirmed to The Echo that there are currently 378 children on the waiting list for the School Age Team, a high percentage of whom will need the services of a speech and language therapist.

Dublin South West TD Sean Crowe (Sinn Fein) has also raised the issue in the Dáil.

In reply to a parliamentary question raised by Deputy Crowe, the HSE said that the 42-month wait time for the School Age Team is “growing”, as the team does “not have the capacity to safely take on additional cases”.

The HSE said that there “has been no movement” in the waiting list in 11 months, due to the volume of children transitioning from Early Intervention services, caseload capacity, delays in the filling of vacancies and maternity leave positions not being backfilled.

The team is also operating without a dedicated Team Manager, which according to the HSE, is an “essential resource in managing resources and waiting lists within the team”.

According to Deputy Crowe: “It is absolutely appalling that children with profound and complex needs in Dublin South West now have to wait 42 months to get their needs assessed and then hopefully addressed.

“Clearly, additional resources are required to address the backlog as the teams in Dublin South West are unable to meet the current and growing demand for help.

“I raised this issue with the previous Minister for Education and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about six months ago, but the waiting list is getting bigger and the delays are getting longer and longer.

“Families and parents are at their wits end, with some having to meet the shortfall through private and often costly alternatives.

“This is not an option for the majority of people whose children are on this long list.”

He added: “The policy of early intervention is rubbished if children have to wait 42 months to get access to a team for an assessment and supports.

“The Government is clearly not delivering basic educational supports for the some of the most vulnerable children in our community.”

Deputy Crowe has called on Government and its Ministers in Education, Health, Disability and Children to get involved.

According to the HSE in its reply to Deputy Crowe: “The growing population and increasing prevalence of disability as evidenced in the Census indicates that the current challenges will continue and worsen without consideration to necessary resources to provide timely access to the appropriate services for children and young people.”

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