Wednesday 18 September 2019

'There is only so much I can help my son with' - 37,000 vulnerable children on lists

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A record 37,473 children are now in some health queue waiting for assessment for mental health, disability or speech and language problems, it emerged yesterday.

The figures were compiled by Barnardos, the children's charity, which warned of the daily impact untreated health conditions are having on the lives of vulnerable young people.

Mental health services in Cork and Kerry "remain the worst" with 29pc of children waiting more than a year for care.

There has been a 50pc increase in the number of children on waiting lists for more than a year for speech and language therapy, or assessment, between March and August.

Some 3,153 children have suffered delays of more than a year for an assessment of need for disability services, with Cork and Kerry again faring worst.

June Tinsley, head of advocacy at Barnardos, said: "These children face extreme difficulties in their everyday lives because they can't get timely access to healthcare.

"Problems in school, in some cases not being able to attend school at all, difficulty making and maintaining friendships, poor mental health and developmental delays are all common for children on waiting lists.

"It doesn't have to be like this; there are solutions out there in the community which are working but they need funding and support from the Government."

One parent told Barnardos: "My seven-year-old son has no coping skills and is crying out with sensory issues, but here we are again on a waiting list.

"He began his journey of waiting lists in 2015 and is still waiting for services he should have received years ago.

"There is only so much I can help my child with, I am not a specialist. Without the proper tools I cannot help my son reach his potential that he is very capable of reaching with some guidance and support from the services."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was tackled in the Dáil about the figures by Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty, who accused the Government of "failing in its responsibility to protect some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society".

In response, the Taoiseach said he will ask for a report on resource and outcome comparisons for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in each region around the country.

He agreed it was "not acceptable" that children were facing delays for mental health care.

Mr Varadkar said there are 10,000 staff working in community mental health services for children and 1,500 new posts had been filled.

But he conceded there are problems in recruiting and retaining staff. There are also variations in waiting times across the country, although each area gets proportionate funds.

Irish Independent

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