A mum of five who wrote to the Taoiseach pleading for help for her son and other children with special needs, says his reply is “not worth the paper it’s written on”.
Lesley Anne O’Brien (34), from Littlepace in Clonee, walked to the Dail last week to hand-deliver a letter, passing Leo Varadkar’s constituency office in Ongar on the way.
Her eight-year-old son, Jamie, has Cerebral Palsy, but the family had to wait for several years for a proper diagnosis and, to date, he’s had no speech or occupational therapy.
Now she fears her eight-month-old daughter Sienna suffers from the same muscular disorder – but Lesley Anne was told she’ll have to wait at least seven months for a hospital appointment.
She received a reply via email signed by Mr Varadkar’s constituency office secretary last Friday acknowledging receipt of her letter.
It stated: “The Taoiseach has asked me to thank you for your further correspondence and petition in respect of the delays in providing occupational therapy for children.
“He has again taken the issue up with the Chief Executive of the HSE and with Mr Finian McGrath TD, Minister for Disabilities. He will contact you on the matter as soon as he receives further responses.”
Lesley Anne says she is “bitterly disappointed” with the Taoiseach’s response and has vowed to keep up her Help Our Children Facebook campaign.
‘A wider problem’
She told Dublin Gazette: “It’s not for Finian McGrath to address this. I know he’s Minister for Disabilities, but this is a wider problem than that – it’s about the whole health service.
“I feel fobbed off. The Government really don’t care. He probably read my letter and thought, ‘Yeah, we’ve bigger fish to fry’ and hopes we won’t come back.
“I’m actually in awe at the lack of empathy, not just with my story, [but] with others I’ve been in contact with since I started this.
“The health service, particularly in Dublin, seems to be in tatters. Our health system is so broken that these kids are falling through the cracks.”
Cllr Tania Doyle (Ind), who supported Lesley Anne on her walk to the Dail, said their slogan of “The banks got bailed out, our children got sold out” rang true for the huge crowd who joined them.
She said: “While all the banking institutions were bailed out during the crisis, the most vulnerable, those who rely on others to speak for them – our children – were forgotten about.
“Their health service supports almost disappeared as a result of resources being allocated elsewhere.”
Lesley Anne says her heart is breaking for her baby girl who is showing all the same signs as her older brother but who won’t be assessed in Temple Street Hospital until next year.
She revealed: “All the red flags are there; she’s not reaching her milestones. She is crying in pain because of her muscles and they told me to give her Nurofen and Calpol to keep her quiet.
“Where’s the early intervention there? We’ve been badly let down. I’m going to keep going with this.
“If I don’t get a response, then I will kick it up to the next level.”