Children with disabilities, such as Down syndrome, have not received developmental screening or vital therapies in areas of County Galway for more than six months due to unfilled positions within the HSE’s Early Intervention Service.
About 70 children under age six in west Galway have been unable to access crucial services such as speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, which ensure they are given a chance to reach their full potential.
The HSE provides a regional Early Intervention Service which supports young children with development delay and disabilities. However, staff vacancies in the Network One Early Intervention Team, which caters for west Galway, has meant that a full range of services cannot be provided.
Parents of the children affected by the staff shortage say they were given assurances by the HSE last April that measures would be put in place to restore the service in the Network One area. However, a speech and language therapist, an occupational therapist and administrative support have yet to be put in place.
Galway West TD Brian Walsh described the situation as “completely unacceptable” and has written to the general manager of the Primary Community and Continuing Care (PCCC ) section of the HSE to seek an explanation for the delay.
“Early intervention is absolutely vital in the case of children with development delay or disabilities to ensure that every child is given an equal chance to reach their full potential,” said Deputy Walsh.
“The absence of this service is having a catastrophic impact on these children’s ability to communicate as well as their physical, cognitive and social development to the extent that many of them will not be able to start school when the relevant time comes.
“A degree of common sense and compassion is required when addressing situations like this arising out of the moratorium on recruitment and it is completely unacceptable that children with disabilities are being overlooked as a result of limited resources.
He stated he has correspondence from the HSE stating these positions would be filled last May.
“This has not happened and I am seeking an explanation for the delay and a definite plan from HSE management to restore the Network One team to full functionality.”