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Almost 3,000 children are waiting over a year for speech and language therapy

On average, there are 162 children for each speech and language therapist in Ireland.

Image: Shutterstock

A NEW REPORT by the charity Inclusion Ireland has found that almost 3,000 children have been waiting more than 12 months for speech and language therapy.

In addition, a further 1,940 children are waiting for assessments for more than 12 months.

The report also finds that a child’s access to speech and language therapy depends entirely on where you live. Cork South Lee and Wicklow have less than 100 children with complex needs for each speech and language therapist employed, while Wexford and Donegal have more than 300 children with complex needs for each speech and language therapist employed.

Case loads 

Inclusion Ireland also finds that Ireland is in breach of the recommended case loads to be assigned to each therapist.

International research recommends case loads of between 30-65 children per therapist depending on the age and needs of the child, however the national average for Ireland is 162 children for each speech and language therapist.

To meet international standards on appropriate case load the amount there will have to be a doubling from its current level of 283 therapist to 565.

Speech and language therapists are centrally involved in assessments of need under the Disability Act 2005, yet at present assessments are taking on average 50% longer than the statutory time frame to complete. The waiting time again varies depending on where you live.

Of children assessed under the Disability Act, 80% require the services of a speech and language therapist.

Waiting lists 

The report finds that the extensive waiting lists for treatment and assessment, coupled with a trend of parents accessing private speech and language therapy are indicative of a system that cannot cope with demand.

The research also finds that families are making a significant financial sacrifice to obtain a service privately that they cannot obtain through the public system, which can cost from 50 for 40 minutes to €100 per hour for treatment.

Reacting to the report, Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Mental Health, Disabilities and Special Needs, Colm Keaveney TD, says the Inclusion Ireland report into the lack of speech and language therapists for children with special needs exposes the Government’s shameful neglect of these services.

He said that it is “utterly unacceptable” for therapist to have twice the recommended case loads.

These children have been completely forgotten by the Government and the lack of resources committed to this area is shameful.

He said that he found it “deeply disturbing” to learn that children with Down Syndrome only receive three speech and language sessions per school year, adding that it could have extremely serious consequences for the development of these children, both socially and intellectually.

What’s more worrying is that the lack of investment and resources in early intervention teams will lead to higher costs to the state in years to come.

Keaveney called on Minister Kathleen Lynch to commit to fully resourcing the early intervention scheme.

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