Written Answers. - Speech Therapy Service.

Michael Creed

Question:

563 Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make funds available to COPE to provide speech therapy classes for special needs pupils for the school. [19820/00]

The provision of health related support services to school going children with special needs in the Cork region is the responsibility of the Southern Health Board in the first instance.

It is the established policy of the Southern Health Board that those attending schools under the remit of the COPE foundation would have access to speech and language therapy services through its service. The Deputy will be aware of the difficulties faced by all agencies providing services to persons with an intellectual disability in recruiting and retaining staff, including speech and language therapists. My Department is working closely with the Health Services Employers Agency, the health boards, voluntary services providers and other relevant statutory and professional bodies with a view to easing, where possible, some of the difficulties faced by service providers in this area.
One of the initiatives developed in this respect has been the development of joint posts between health boards and voluntary service providers such as the COPE Foundation. At present the foundation has two full time posts of speech and language therapists vacant. There are four shared posts between the Southern Health Board and the foundation and two of these posts are also vacant. The two shared posts are providing services to pupils attending Scoil Eanna and the Rainbow Lodge pre-school.
Two joint posts between the board and the COPE Foundation will be advertised shortly and it is hoped that following the recruitment of successful applicants additional services can be provided to schools under the auspices of the COPE Foundation.
Health related support services for children with special needs have been greatly enhanced and expanded since 1998. A figure of £4.6 million has been provided for the development and enhancement of these services since 1998, rising to a full year cost of £5.1 million in 2001. A figure of £250,000 has been allocated to the board in 2000 for the development of these services, rising to £300,000 in 2001.