It is important to clarify the position on the reply to a parliamentary question that Deputy Ó Laoghaire received a number of weeks ago, which attracted many headlines. At the time, the Deputy referred to 714 vacant posts. Let us be clear that 555 of the posts in question are vacant. Some of that figure relates to people who are on maternity leave, a total of 120. The Deputy would have got the breakdown, but it is important to lay out the position.
On recruitment and the filling of those posts, in the context of workforce planning, we in the Department of Health are, in conjunction with the Minister and the HSE, putting a number of measures in place. First and foremost, we want to bolster the teams. How we plan on doing that is by looking at targeting international recruitment. This involves: national and international recruitment to the CDNTs being targeted; an apprenticeship programme for therapy grades; employment of graduates to therapy assistants as they await their CORU registration; and an expansion of the therapy assistant systems within the HSE. My colleague, Deputy Brendan Smith, explored the position regarding the latter earlier on.
We are also looking at the recruitment of behavioural therapists. Behavioural therapist is not currently a grade within the HSE. The executive is working through the plan of giving it a particular pay grade. We are training these therapists but we are not recruiting them. When one is looking at the spectrum within disability teams, it is important to have everything from occupational therapists to the physiotherapists. We also need to have behavioural therapists on those teams. We are looking at that model.
In the context of social care workers, we are looking at link workers as well. We are expanding the range of what should be within the team also to recruit into it. We are not only looking at a medical model; we are looking at a social model and a more holistic approach. Disability teams no longer need to look only at the medical aspect. We need to meet all the needs of all the children.