Barnardos report highlights government’s failure of children in need of health assessments - Pearse Doherty TD
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil this afternoon, Sinn Féin Dáil deputy leader Pearse Doherty TD has said ‘the government is failing in its responsibility to protect some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society - our young people and our children’.
He said the Barnardos Winter Waiting List Report, published this morning, illustrates the scale of the problem in our health service in respect of children waiting for care.
Teachta Doherty said:
“In recent weeks we have heard accounts of homeless families with children walking the streets of Dublin at night because they have nowhere to go. There are almost four thousand children in this State who will sleep in emergency accommodation tonight.
“The plight of parents and children in poverty is shockingly illustrated by a picture in today’s Irish Times which shows young mothers with their kids queuing for nappies and baby formula for their babies outside the Capuchin Centre in Dublin.
“All are examples of how the government is failing in its responsibility to protect some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society - our young people and our children.
“Last Thursday at Leader’s Questions I raised the scandalous waiting lists faced by children - and their families - who try to access Child and Adolescent Mental Health services across the State.
“This morning, Barnardos released it Winter Waiting List Report which illustrates further the scale of the problem in our health service in respect of children waiting for care.
“The report states that there are over 37,000 children waiting for health assessments; whether they be mental health assessments, disability assessments or speech and language assessments.
“The vast majority of children - 78% - with a disability or a suspected disability - are overdue an assessment of need to identify their health requirements. That is absolutely disgraceful.
“The report also highlights that thousands of children are waiting for mental health assessments to identify their needs, with many young people waiting a year or more just to be assessed - another unbelievable figure.
“Behind the figures there are young lives and real people, and families at their wits end.
“We cannot allow children to be put at risk.
“The reason for all of this, which the Minister for Justice accepted last week in respect of CAMHS, is that there are chronic levels of understaffing in the system.
“For some time, around half of the positions in CAMHS teams across the State have been vacant. Yet, when we raised the issue of the recruitment and retention crisis - which includes psychiatric nurses - with the Taoiseach last Wednesday, he dismissed our concerns.
“An immediate emergency response is needed, particularly in areas where problems are worst.
“We cannot allow a situation to persist, where if a child or a young person needs care, they are going to face extended waiting periods which their health - and in some cases their life - at risk.
“We need to see dedicated action to attract new staff, to keep the excellent staff we have and to reduce waiting times.
“There were promises made by the government last year that the disastrous staffing gap in CAMHS would be addressed, but they haven’t been.
“I am pressing the government to re-commit to that and to ensure it actually happens this time.”