A Laois TD has called for the ‘crisis in autism services’ to be immediately addressed.
Sinn Fein Deputy Brian Stanley says that 1,940 children in Laois and Offaly are on a waiting list for access to services.
And of those, more than 1,100 of them are waiting more than one year.
He said: “The crisis in Autism services for the 2 counties must be addressed by the Government and the HSE.
“The latest figures I have received in reply to parliamentary questions show the difficulties that parents and families are having in trying to get access to services.
“The waiting time of occupational therapy in Laois and Offaly is at a totally unacceptable level with 1940 children on it. 1118 of these are waiting over 12 months! Unfortunately, I received no reply to my question as to how many of these are waiting more than 2 or 3 years.
“Children who need Speech and Language (S&L) services also have to wait for over a year. According to this latest reply, 159 children across the 2 counties are now waiting in excess of 12 months for S&L therapy.
“The total numbers awaiting assessment by the Early Intervention Team (EIT) and the School Age Team (SAT) in the 2 counties are not available yet as a reply is awaited regarding the Offaly EIT. However, even without this figure there are 529 awaiting assessments.
“When taken together the numbers highlight the fact that children with autism in Laois/Offaly are been failed by our health system.
“Parents and practitioners know the long-term effects of children not receiving the appropriate intervention at an early state in their development which leads to further intellectual difficulties and mental health issues later in life. It will also cost society more financially in the long-term.
“The lack of services does not appear to be caused by a shortage of Occupational or Speech and Language Therapists and has more to do with the lack of job opportunities and the short-term contracts been offered by the HSE.
“One practitioner has claimed there are countless of them looking for work and the best that is been offered is 3 to 6 months contracts. She stated they wait for these offers and may never emerge.
“The result is that they are forced to move abroad with the investment made by the State in their education and training being lost and children such as those in Laois/Offaly been denied services.
“The current situation cannot be allowed to continue. I am calling on the Fianna Fáil Minister for Health to outline how many have completed training in the past 5 years, the number on panels awaiting positions and when will fulltime positions be created?
“During the boom time years on the 2000s successive governments failed to address the problem. And they did the same after the recovery. We can’t ignore it forever.”