Data released by the HSE shows waiting lists of over two years in some areas for therapy services such as occupational or speech and language therapy. Approximately 2090 children are waiting at least twelve months for occupational therapy. There are also lengthy waiting lists for speech and language therapy, with 1940 people waiting a year or more for an assessment. A further 2983 had already been assessed as requiring a service, but have been waiting at least a year without a reply. In response to these figures, the HSE said it is rolling out reform under the aegis of the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People project, which will provide for a more equitable and consistent way of providing services for children with disabilities. It also said 80 additional therapeutic staff are being recruited. Speaking on Today FM’s The Last Word programme, Inclusion Ireland Advocacy Officer Mark O’Connor said the additional 80 posts are a welcome development, ‘provided they go into the right areas’. He said there are particular blackspots around the country where service levels are very poor. He also said Inclusion Ireland receives calls from parents whose children haven’t had occupational or speech and language therapy for years on end and this is ‘detrimental to their child’s development’.
Legislation on resource hours for children with Down Syndrome overcomes first hurdle
A Bill is progressing to committee stage in the Oireachtas that will give children with Down Syndrome an automatic entitlement to resource teaching hours. The Bill was introduced in early February by Independent Dublin TD Finian McGrath, who has a daughter with Down Syndrome. Under usual practice, when a Bill is introduced in this way by an opposition TD, it is voted down by the government parties and does not progress any further- However, in this instance, Deputy McGrath’s Bill is being allowed by government to proceed to committee stage without a vote in the Dáil. If enacted, the Bill will add Down Syndrome to the list of disabilities for which individual resource teaching is automatically provided. A spokeswoman for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said the decision to allow the Bill to progress to committee stage was made ‘in the context of work the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is doing to find a new model of allocating resources to schools in relation to special educational needs’. The NCSE is expected to present recommendations to Minister Quinn in the coming months on a revised system of allocating resource teaching hours to schools for children with disabilities, which could entirely replace the current system. The proposed new system would move towards a process based on allocating resources according to the individual needs of a child, not on diagnosis.
Higher depression risk for parents of children with a disability
A new study from the University of Limerick has found that parents of children with an intellectual or learning disability are at a significantly higher risk of developing physical and mental health problems. It found these parents are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression as other parents, and are also at a greater risk of physical ill-health, with respiratory diseases, arthritis, back pain, digestive complaints and diabetes particularly prevalent. Fifteen percent of parents of children with disabilities were classified as depressed, but fewer than half of them reported being treated for depression. The study used data from the national Growing Up in Ireland research project. The study co-author, Dr Stephen Gallagher, from the Department of Psychology at University of Limerick, said ‘providing care to a child with a disability can often be very stressful. When parents lack the resources to manage the difficult situations they are experiencing their health is likely to suffer. Moreover, if their condition goes untreated the ill-effects can extend beyond the parent to influence the whole family.’ Dr Gallagher urged for greater supports for families. The study was published in the international journal Research in Developmental Disabilities, and was co-authored by Dr Gallagher and Professor Ailish Hannigan from the Graduate Entry Medical School, UL.
Government urged to strengthen children’s rights under UN protocol
The government has been urged to ratify the optional communications protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, so children whose rights have been violated can complain directly to the United Nations. Under this protocol, children, or their representatives, can submit complaints directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. However, the government must first ratify this protocol. The protocol will officially come into force in the coming months, as it has been signed by ten countries, including Germany, Portugal and Spain. A spokesperson for the Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald TD, said the matter of signing the protocol is under consideration in the Department.
€30,000 HSE funding available for 2 individualised funding placements
The HSE has made €30,000 available for two individualised funding placements in the Kildare/West Wicklow area. The money was made available through the brokerage organisation PossibilitiesPlus and is designed to provide an alternative day programme with a value of €15,000 per annum each. PossibilitiesPlus held an open competition for the places, following an information evening on the subject in late January. More information on PossiblitiesPlus is available via their website www.possibilitiesplus.ie.
Inclusion Ireland to launch training calendar
Inclusion Ireland is launching a training calendar in March that will include separate training events for people with an intellectual disability, their family members and professionals working in the area. Training will be provided on areas such as wills, capacity legislation and HSE reforms that will affect how disability services are provided. There will be preferential booking periods and reduced fees for Inclusion Ireland members. See www.inclusionireland.ie, or call 01-8559891.’