Plight of Swords family is debated in the Dáil
The case of a Swords family at their wits' end coping with a child with severe autism who cannot access respite care for the eight-year-old and feel 'abandoned' by the State, has been raised in the Dáil by a local TD.
After pleading their case to several Government ministers and taking their plight onto the national airwaves on Sean O'Rourke's Show on RTE Radio, the impossible position Anton and Edel Dooley have been left in with their eight-year-old son, Jacob has now become the subject of a Dáil debate.
Deputy Louise O'Reilly TD (SF) raised the issue with Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, saying: 'I want to talk to the Minister about Jacob Dooley. Jacob is the middle child of Edel and Anton Dooley and he has been diagnosed with severe autism. The Dooleys are, in their own words, 'a family in crisis'.
'For months they have been appealing to Ministers for help but they have been ignored.'
Deputy O'Reilly said: 'Jacob is eight years of age and engaged in aggressive behaviours toward his parents and siblings causing injury.'
She added: 'Jacob is displaying significant behaviours that challenge, such as biting and scratching. Edel herself has been bitten and scratched on a regular basis and Jacob recently tried to strangle his mother.'
Despite all of this, the family has been unable to access respite care for Jacob and Deputy O'Reilly said the case is not an isolated one in North Dublin which has seen falling respite hours available to families who need them.
The Sinn Féin TD explained: 'In the first quarter of last year, 44,141 overnight hours were provided. This year the figure had fallen to 40,597. For example, Dublin North, where Jacob lives, is down 503 hours.'
Deputy O'Reilly added: 'Last week the Dooleys told their story on the Sean O'Rourke show. They are a quiet, private family and it pains them to have to do this. However, it appeared to work because immediately following the programme they received all sorts of calls from interested politicians. Indeed, they have now secured a meeting with the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, a mere seven months after asking for it.'
Deputy Bruton expressed his 'full sympathy' with the family and said he had dealt with similar stories. He said: 'The Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, has been working hard to try to improve the access to both information and service and he has applied additional funds to these purposes.'
But added: 'Clearly, this is an area of respite which, from my own experience, is a particularly acute pressure point in that provisions have been made in good faith for respite provision but because of a particular individual who has very challenging behaviour, sometimes it is not possible to continue to provide the planned respite because all attention has to be devoted to one very complex case.
'We need to have a better planning framework for this.'