Over 1,800 children waiting for HSE’s speech therapy

By Mary Dennehy

MORE than 1,800 children are awaiting speech and language assessment or therapy in Dublin South West, with 145 of the children waiting longer than two years for an initial assessment.

A total of 1,823 children are on the waiting list for speech and language therapy in Dublin South West, which, part of the HSE CHO7 (Community Health Organisation) area, includes communities such as Tallaght, Citywest and parts of Rathfarnham and Templeogue.

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Figures released this week by the HSE in response to a parliamentary question reveal that 685 children are on the waiting list for an initial assessment, 355 are awaiting initial therapy, while 783 are awaiting further therapy in Dublin South West.

According to the figures provided (which are dated July 2019), 356 of the 1,823 children have been waiting between 12 and 24 months for an initial assessment, initial therapy or further therapy.

Some 145 children have been waiting longer than two years for an initial assessment alone.

Alongside Dublin South West, the CH07 area also incorporates Dublin West, Dublin South City and Kildare/West Wicklow.

Dublin West includes the communities of Clondalkin and Ballyfermot, and has 2,250 children on its speech and language therapy waiting list.

Overall, for the entire CH07 area, 6,480 children are awaiting assessment or therapy.

The figures were released by the HSE in response to a parliamentary question by Dublin South West TD Sean Crowe (Sinn Féin).

Commenting on the figures, Deputy Crowe said: “This latest reply from the HSE on the provision of speech and language supports is deeply disturbing.

“Such massive waiting lists are damaging to children with profound needs.

“Early intervention is clearly not in place in the CH07 area.

“According to this reply there are now 6,480 children in CH07 area waiting for speech and language assessments and treatments.”

He added: “Dublin South West has the highest number of children waiting longer for an assessment that any other area in the group . . . and is the only region in the CH07 area that has children waiting over 24 months for an initial assessment.

“This is clearly a system that is broken.”

In its response to Deputy Crowe, the HSE confirmed that there are currently 10.5 vacant speech and language therapy posts and six uncovered maternity leave posts in the CH07 area.

The HSE wrote in its reply this week: “The current recruitment restrictions are having a significant effect on speech and language therapy service provision in CH07 and numbers on waiting lists will continue to increase if vacant posts are not filled.”

The HSE listed a number of measures being implemented to deal with lengthening waiting times.

These include: therapy being offered in groups, workshops for parents, drop-in advice clinics, and the longest children waiting being targeted to try and reduce lengthy waiting times.

“The government’s failure to tackle this issue is having a massive negative effect on children,” Deputy Crowe said.

“It is unacceptable that children with profound needs are being left without supports and therapy because of the government’s failures.

“The matter needs greater focus from the Minister for Health. He needs to lift the recruitment restrictions and more funds must be urgently released to tackle the appalling delays.”

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