The Government is fully committed to protecting frontline services, including services for children with disabilities, to the greatest extent possible, notwithstanding the financial constraints which the health sector must operate within. Significant resources have been invested by the health sector in recent years in services for children with disabilities. In particular, there is now an increased awareness of the importance of early intervention for these children in terms of ensuring they get the best start in life and are supported as much as possible to reach their full potential.
With regards to the HSE's Speech and Language Therapy Service, I understand that each individual that presents to the Service has an initial assessment to determine their individual need for therapy. The therapist, in conjunction with the parent(s) or carer, will determine the severity of the individual’s difficulties and prioritise for therapy accordingly. The level of intervention is in line with clinic policy, age and severity of the diagnosis. The waiting period for intervention is dependent on the nature and severity of the disorder following assessment.
The HSE aims to ensure that the resources available are used to best effect, in order to provide assessment and ongoing therapy to children and adults in line with their prioritised needs. Along with the significant investment in area of speech and language therapists employed in recent years, a range of new approaches have been developed and used in many Speech and Language Therapy services across the country. These include providing structures, training and support to parents /carers so that they can work to help improve the individual’s speech and language. In addition, therapy is delivered in group settings where appropriate.
The HSE has stated that it is committed to working in partnership with other service providers to achieve maximum benefits for children and adults with speech and language therapy requirements, and aims to ensure that the speech and language therapy resources available are used in the most effective manner possible.
The particular issue raised by the Deputy relates to an individual case and, as such, is a service matter for the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.