Waiting list for autism services continues to grow

A local TD has highlighted the urgent need to implement the recommendations of a recent report on services for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder.

Speaking on a motion in the Dáil on National Autism Day, Deputy Catherine Connolly said she welcomed the setting up of an all-party Oireachtas committee on autism. It will be tasked with developing and publishing a comprehensive autism empowerment strategy within a six-month period of its establishment.

Deputy Connolly stated there was an urgent need to implement the recommendations of the recently published “Report of the Review of the Irish Health Services for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders”. It was commissioned by the Minister for Health in May 2017 and undertaken by the HSE in response to people’s concerns about what she termed the “inadequate” provision of services.

“Significantly, the review outlines six previous reports, all of which had made relevant recommendations in relation to autism services. More specifically, the 2012 report “A National Review of Autism Services, Past, Present and Way Forward” outlined gaps in the service provision at that time. It showed significant geographic disparities, it highlighted the need for a clear pathway for individuals to access services and the imperative for a clear focus on the individual and his or her family. More recently, and in addition to the six reports, there was a further report on the Galway/Roscommon autism spectrum disorder service, located in Athenry, in 2016. This report clearly identified the serious gaps in services on the ground; the enormous distances that children and families have to travel to access services in Athenry; and clearly set out that unless action was taken in relation to the waiting list that it would increase.

“That report made eight recommendations. Notwithstanding those recommendations, Dáil replies to me have confirmed that the waiting list has, as anticipated, continued to grow. The waiting time for assessment is now over 27 months and the waiting time for intervention is approximately three years. The replies also acknowledged that the ASD service in Athenry remains below the recommended minimum levels of staff and resources identified in the 2016 review.”

From all of the reports and recommendations, the most common recurring theme, said Deputy Connolly, is the urgent need for clear and functioning pathways to services for both children and adults.

“In that context, while the establishment of a committee with a specific purpose and time-limit is very positive and welcome, the recommendations of the 2017 national review and the recommendations on the Galway/Roscommon services must be implemented as a matter of urgency.” Deputy Connolly said she had tabled further questions on this matter.

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