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'Urgent need' to improve wait times for children says local TD

Dec 7, 2023 07:37 By News Northern Sound
'Urgent need' to improve wait times for children says local TD
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Deputy Brendan Smith raised the matter in the Dáil this week.

Local Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has said there is an urgent need to improve waiting times for children with additional needs trying to access supports. Deputy Smith told the Dáil children with additional needs are facing unacceptable delays for follow up treatment after an assessment of need. “There are very long delays in children obtaining therapies such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy,” Deputy Smith said. “We all know of the absolute importance of having early interventions to support a person with a particular health need, but very regrettably, this is not happening. We have a critical shortage of such clinicians in Co Cavan, which adversely impacts the work of the local children's disability network team.

“We need a very strong and robust international recruitment campaign for therapists. There must be a shorter process in validating qualifications for persons who train abroad and in the longer term, we need to train more people in such disciplines in our own colleges. Recruitment and retention of such clinicians must be improved.”

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, in response, said he was acutely aware of the huge pressures that are faced by the community disability network teams around the country and the impact it has on families. “That is why the issue has been prioritised by the Minister of State [Anne Rabbitte] and I since responsibility for disability moved to my Department in March of this year,” Minister O’Gorman said. “We published the PDS roadmap focusing on recruitment, retention and increasing the number of places in third-level courses for those therapist posts about which the Deputy spoke. We have focused on conversion masters’ programmes funded by the HSE to upskill people as therapists more quickly. We are also focusing on the introduction of a new therapist assistant grade at level 5 that can bring more people into the system more quickly to get interventions for children and their families.”

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