The Government and the Health Service Executive (HSE) should be “completely ashamed of themselves” regarding correspondence currently being sent out to some families in relation to occupational therapists as well as a speech and language therapists, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has said.

Commenting on the issue, Deputy Fitzmaurice said: “There are children with autism, who maybe as old as six years of age, who have now gone to mainstream school.

“They are now being told that it will be three years before the state is able to give them an occupational therapist.

“This is absolutely scandalous, especially when you hear all the talk from Government about putting more resources into disability services.

“Under our constitution, every child is entitled to an equal education. Unfortunately, the State at the moment – and this Government especially – has decided that it is not interested in trying to give those children the help that they require to give them a chance to take part in and enjoy society in the future.

“I recently saw a situation where a child received correspondence back to say that they were number 99 on a list – which will mean a wait of at least three years.

“Bear in mind, that child will probably be nearly 10 years old when they are assigned an occupational therapist.

“These types of delays could be detrimental to the future prospects of children in need of additional services. Sadly, our state is failing to give those children the opportunity to maximise their potential going forward.

“I will be bringing this to the attention of the Minister for State for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath, and indeed the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.

“But, having raised this matter before, I fear that Minister Harris doesn’t have a lot of interest in making sure that children with autism or any other learning difficulties get a fair and even chance at education,” he concluded.

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