Dr Damien Lowry of the Psychological Society of Ireland has welcomed the announcement that the Government is to consider reimbursing families who have to pay for private assessment for their children.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s News at One, Dr Lowry said such a move would be very welcome, but there remained the issue of capacity. Even if funding was available in some areas there remained a shortage of psychologists with waiting lists and in some cases closed lists.
Funding was not an elixir or a magic solution to the problem, he said.
Statistics had shown that in some parts of the country there were huge gaps in service ranging from 30 per cent of posts unfilled to 80 per cent to 88 percent in parts of the south-west.
The solution was adequate resourcing of teams, but even if additional budgets were provided, it would be three to five years for such help to be felt “downstream”, he said.
There was a multitude of evidence that early intervention was vitally important, said Dr Lowry, with additional consequences for children and their families when they were delays in diagnosis.
It was “immensely frustrating and upsetting” that children’s needs were not being evaluated in a timely fashion. Some children who entered the system at age four or five years were not receiving treatment until they were in their teens. “That’s woefully inadequate,”
“Even after evaluation and diagnosis it could take years for treatment because of the lack of capacity in the system”, Dr Lowry said.
As the Irish Examiner reported yesterday, Disabilities Minister Anne Rabbitte received applause from the opposition after she committed to reimburse the cost of private consultations.
“For once and for all, we must put the parent and child first and that is what I will do,” she said.
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Ms Rabbitte said that the HSE has now been directed to set up a minimum of six regional assessment units for children, which will involve a combination of public-private.
She said this will ensure there is the correct delivery of assessment for thousands of children currently on waiting lists, and will also allow young people to be placed with the proper teams, and give the teams that are already in place the scope to build up the capacity to make a direct intervention.
“I will say today on the floor of the Dáil that if it is not done by August 1, I will take the Labour Party’s proposal that we fund families to budget. I am giving the time to the HSE to act on the request, and I am supported by the senior minister in that,” Ms Rabbitte said.
She was responding to a Labour motion, which called for financial relief for parents and caregivers forced to pay for local, private assessments and therapies.