Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald says the Government will recruit more speech therapists in Leitrim.
Sinn Féin Deputy Martin Kenny questioned the proposed increase in speech and language therapists in Dáil Eireann.
Deputy Kenny asked about the promise to “train and have more HSE speech and language therapists in place and to increase the number to 1,102, which is a 25% increase.”
He outlined, “There is a major crisis in my constituency, in particular in County Leitrim, in regard to early intervention and there is no access at all for preschool children to speech and language therapists.”
He sought assurance “that recruitment has started and that additional training will be in place to ensure the service is provided.”
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald stated, “The Government has identified this as a very important area for further investment and money is available for investment to deal with the waiting lists for children, particularly those under five years of age.
“There are major inconsistencies in the waiting times around the country. There is a real problem in respect of recruitment.
“The money will be available over the course of this year to deal with those waiting lists but the Minister informs me that there are a number of difficulties in terms of the actual recruitment of speech therapists and occupational therapists.
“I hope that people who have gone abroad can be persuaded to return and that people will take up those posts because it is an extremely important service. We are committed to developing this service and ensuring that waiting times are reduced and that the service is available in a timely way to children.”
The issue about the delay in the HSE Children’s Early Intervention Team in Leitrim was first brought to light by Sinn Féin Cllr Brendan Barry in April this year.
He stated, “last year the Paediatric Occupational Therapist was missing for most of the year, the community facilitator is just a phone service, where you leave a message and the Speech and Language Therapist resigned from the position this year.”
He noted that the lack of professionals means children have their assessments delayed and are not receiving the services they need in prompt time.
The HSE said the vacancies would be filled and that all 2015 assessments had bee completed on time.