BOYZONE'S Keith Duffy has described the HSE's waiting lists for the assessment and diagnosis of autistic children as "disgusting".
Duffy's daughter Mia (14) suffers from autism and the actor says he "dreads to think" how her condition would have deteriorated if he had been forced to rely on the HSE.
"With autism, early diagnosis is essential," he said.
"The HSE told us we would have to wait two-and-a-half years to get Mia assessed. It was just too long. I wanted things done yesterday."
Mia was diagnosed with autism at 18 months, but she became vocal at the age of seven – suddenly bursting into the song 'Tomorrow' from the musical 'Annie' as the Duffy family watched TV.
Initially, both Duffy and his wife Lisa were reluctant to accept Mia's autism. "I knew it was going to break Lisa's heart," he said. "It was very scary, putting a name on it made it real."
He was speaking at the launch of Autism Awareness Month at Croke Park. The GAA is encouraging sports enthusiasts to purchase and wear novelty blue noses after the Allianz Football League Finals on Sunday, April 27, to break a world record.
In response to Duffy's claims, the HSE said it was introducing "a number of initiatives" such as providing "family-centred interventions in a group as opposed to a one-to-one setting".
"The 2014 budget for Disability Services will include the roll-out of the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme," a HSE spokesperson said.
"This will entail the provision of 80 additional therapy staff, to increase services for children with all disabilities including autism."