Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire is calling on the Government to address huge gaps in Children’s Disability Network Teams in Cork.

Calls to end parents' ‘uphill battle’

“I am scared and upset, I don’t know what’s ahead for my son.”

The words of one of many parents in Cork who are becoming increasingly fearful over the diminishing supports available for children with special needs on Leeside.

Giving voice to their worries at the Dáil this week was Cork TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire who spoke as a Sinn Féin motion called on the Government to stop shirking its responsibilities for the care of children with additional needs.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said the most recent figures from the Cork South Lee Health Centre show over 300 children waiting for their assessment of need. He said 131 children are overdue to commence stage two of this process, and that 102 of these are overdue by over three months. He added that 204 additional children are currently waiting for completion of the assessment of need process.

“The Progressing Disability Model at present is not fit for purpose. Therapists have been removed from special schools, without a functioning alternative to accessing these crucial therapies,” he said.

“The Children’s Disability Network Teams in Cork are far from being up and running. One such team in the northside of the city, so under pressure due to staffing gaps that have never been filled, actually contacted parents encouraging them to complain to the HSE in the hopes of getting some support,” said Teachta Ó Laoghaire.

He continued: “The staffing gaps for the children’s disability teams in Cork South-Central are dire – Team 11 (South East City) is missing one psychologist and 2.2 speech and language therapists. Team 12 (West Central Cork) is missing 2.6 occupational therapists, 1.3 speech and language therapists and 2.2 psychologists. Team 13 (Carrigaline Bandon Kinsale) is missing one physio, 0.5 speech and language therapists, 2.2 occupational therapists and two psychologists. Team 14 (South Cork City) is missing 0.9 physios, 0.9 occupational therapists, 0.7 speech and language therapists and 0.5 psychologists.”

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said family representative groups were meant to be set up under Progressing Disability to allow parents to be fully engaged in their child’s care, but that not a single parent he asked had been invited to such a group.

He said: “One local mother was told by an official in the office of Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte on 28 January that the funding would be given so that the therapeutic supports lost would be reinstated in her son’s special school. This has still not happened.

“To put it plainly – this uphill battle for parents in Cork, the fight for assessments of need, for the reinstatement of crucial therapies, for these basic things that their children have a right to, cannot continue.”