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Mother told to call gardaí for her autistic son as HSE services were shut at the weekend

Mick Wallace read the woman’s plight into the Dáíl record yesterday.

Mick Wallace addressing the Dáíl yesterday.
Mick Wallace addressing the Dáíl yesterday.
Image: Oireachtas TV

Source: wallacemick1/YouTube

INDEPENDENT TD MICK Wallace read into the Dáil record the case of a mother of two autistic children who claims she was told to call gardaí to restrain her child as there were no HSE services available at the time.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Wallace said he was contacted by the mother on Monday night. The woman said that her son is seen by the Irish health system as an inconvenience and that his difference “comes at a cost”.

Reading out the email he was sent by the mother, Wallace told the Dáil: “Evan is now 17. He was diagnosed with severe autism. He didn’t develop any speech and is non-verbal but has excellent comprehension skills. Due to a degenerative eye condition, he has a visual impairment.

“Evan lost his dad three years ago due to a sudden cardiac incident. He never stops trying… same lust for life that any other boy his age. He deserves respect and a right to dignity and to live the best life he can.

He is seen as an inconvenience because he is different and difference comes at a cost.

The mother claims she was told by a HSE manager to call gardaí if her son has a violent “meltdown”. She said that when she took issue with those threats, she was told Tusla could become involved.

Wallace, referring to the Taoiseach’s announcement that more resources are to be given to increase the number of special needs assistants across the country, asked three questions:

“When the HSE refers a parent to call gardaí to take into custody an autistic teenager at a time when HSE have shut down for a weekend, does that sound like it might maximise the potential of that child?

“When a parent says they wont call gardaí and then the HSE manager then threatens to refer them Tusla, does that sound like it most maximise the potential of that child?

“Is it fair on gardaí who are under-resourced and also untrained to handle children with special needs?”

Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke this morning, the mother said: “We found it very difficult to get in touch with the HSE. We were very grateful for the support that we initially given [following her husband's death]. Going on six months later, I was advised the support was to be reviewed and then that support was changed as the HSE said it had only been given after my husband had passed away. Unfortunately, my husband was still dead and my children still have autism.”

Varadkar, in response, said he was sorry to hear the woman’s experience and asked Wallace to pass on her details to him or to Health Minister Simon Harris.

He added that his government is currently developing a national autism strategy and that a working group had been set up to address the condition and the hardships it can bring with it.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie this afternoon, the HSE said: “We want to assure the public that its community services are there to care and support those who require our services.

The HSE acknowledges the difficulties faced by some families and will continue to liaise with them to resolve issues that arise. In this instance, HSE staff are in contact with the family directly in order to support them on an ongoing basis.

“The welfare of patients, clients, service users and their families in Co. Wexford is important to the HSE. Our community services are working to ensure that, within our existing resources, people have access to our services.

“The HSE encourages any individuals and/or their families, who may have an issue with the service they are receiving, to make contact with the services concerned and the matter will be discussed directly with them.”

Read: ‘Rogue landlords’ should face tougher sanctions and even jail, Dáil hears

Read: Number of homeless people requiring emergency beds in Cork increases for third year running >

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