Over 41,000 children in Ireland are waiting to access speech and language therapy through the HSE, with 14,000 waiting on an initial assessment.
This is according to figures received from the HSE by Dublin Mid-West TD Mark Ward. Teachta Ward is now calling on the Government to introduce an immediate plan for children waiting for these therapies.
Currently, there are 9,365 children nationally waiting on initial therapy after an initial assessment, and a staggering 17,402 children are waiting on further therapy, as recently as October 2020.
In their response to Teachta Ward, the HSE also detailed that staff who usually engage with these therapies have been redeployed to assist with ‘Covid-19 related duties’.
The HSE said: “The HSE is working to ensure timely access to children and adults requiring therapy services, and to reduce long waiting times for these important services.”
Speaking about the figures received, Teachta Ward said: “Since being elected to represent the people of Dublin Mid-West, I have been inundated with calls from parents who are literally at their wits end with frustration in trying to get treatment for their children.
“One area of treatment that arises constantly is speech and language therapy. I contacted the Minister for Health in regards to this, and the report I have received is shocking.
“To have 41,055 children waiting on some form of treatment is unacceptable. 14,288 of these children are waiting on initial assessment nationally. Other figures show another 9,365 children waiting on initial therapy and a staggering 17,402 children waiting on further therapy.
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“The figures are particularly worrying in CHO7, which includes my constituency area of Dublin Mid-West, which has 6,219 children waiting on treatment. 3,371 of these children have been waiting over a year.
“In my own CHO area, which includes Clondalkin, Lucan and Palmerstown, there are 3,371 children waiting over a year – with 904 of these children waiting over two years.
“Early intervention is critical to a child’s development.
“For example, a young 6-year-old child could be waiting 2 years to get an initial assessment. The then 8-year-old child could they be waiting a further 2 years just get some initial speech and language therapy.
“Finally, according to the figures, they could be 10 or 11 before they receive the vital further treatment that they need. This is absolutely unacceptable.
“Children are being moved from list to list and not getting the appropriate treatment at the appropriate time. This is having a severe impact on their development and is curtailing children’s future growth.
“Covid cannot not be used as an excuse for the Government’s abandonment of children’s needs. These lists are the result of systemic failures by successive Governments.
“In some areas, physiotherapists, occupational and speech and language therapists were redeployed as Covid swabbers and contact tracers, resulting in a complete loss in services.
“It would have made more sense to use non-frontline staff, or one of the more than 60,000 people who volunteered for ‘Ireland’s Call’ to work as Covid swabbers and contact tracers.”