Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould.

'Parents are at their wits' end'

A Cork TD has called on the Government to urgently progress a recruitment campaign for Children’s Disability Network Teams (CDNTs) in Cork.

Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould said Cork is “once again is outperforming national figures in the worst possible way”.

His comments come following confirmation by Cork Kerry Community Healthcare (CKCH) that 31% of posts in CDNTs in Cork are currently unfilled.

“Late last year, it was confirmed that CDNTs had an average vacancy rate of 25%. In Cork, this is at 31%,” said Deputy Gould.

He added: “Not one post is fully staffed in Cork CDNTs. Some of these are chronically understaffed – therapy assistants for example have a vacancy rate of 95%.”

CKCH has 14 CDNTs across the Cork and Kerry region, 11 of which are in Cork. Cork CDNTs are managed by Brothers of Charity, CoAction West Cork, COPE Foundation, Enable Ireland, and St Joseph’s Foundation.

Deputy Gould continued: “The whole purpose of CDNTs is to provide holistic, multi-disciplinary care for vulnerable children. This cannot be done when half of the roles are vacant.

"How can staff be expected to provide the vital interventions they are trained for with this level of vacancy? They are trying their absolute best, but this situation is only getting worse.”

In response to a parliamentary question asked by Mr Gould regarding staffing at CDNTs in Cork, a spokesperson for CKCH said there are ongoing efforts to recruit for all vacant posts.

“A targeted national CDNT recruitment campaign coordinated by the HSE commenced in December 2023. Applications received through this campaign are currently being shortlisted for interview,” said the spokesperson.

Deputy Gould also raised concerns regarding the number of therapists available to certain schools.

He said: “To make this even worse for parents and children, within CDNT 8 there are four special schools with 266 pupils, but these have been sanctioned for only two therapists.

“Two therapists cannot be expected to provide the level of support children need across four schools in any circumstances but particularly not when many of these children are unable to access services out of school.

“Parents are at their wits end. They tell me that every single day is a battle for services and support for their children. They know that the failures to properly resource Children’s Disability Services is having a detrimental impact on their children’s development,” added Mr Gould.

In August 2023 an additional allocation of 7.5 Therapy Assistant posts were allocated to five special schools in Cork. CKCH say a recruitment process has commended for these posts and that, in the interim, the teams have provided supports to children based on each child’s needs and resource availability.