Government spending on autism intervention wait lists pales in comparison to spending on Big Four consultancies

Seán Sherlock TD
27 April 2021

Launching Labour’s motion calling for a National Autism Empowerment Strategy, Labour TD Seán Sherlock said it is time for Government to start prioritising children – starting with the horrendous wait times for the assessment of needs. While €7.8 million has been pledged to lower the HSE waiting lists for children and families, €8.7 million has been spent by the HSE on consulting services relating to the pandemic.

Deputy Sherlock said:

“We know that early diagnosis and tailored supports is the key for children with autism to help them develop strategies to make life easier and grow up to have well developed skills in communication and social interaction which are fundamental to having a good quality of life. Providing people with autism with the right foundations mean they can live, work and proposer in society.

“Some of the testimonies that we have received from families is deeply concerning – with one parent noting a 23 month wait list for their non-verbal child. The very fact that there are still 5,000 children who are waiting for the initial assessment is atrocious. What’s worse, the HSE confirmed that there are 14,000 children still waiting for ophthalmology services, and approximately 9,500 children for waiting for audiology services. So, after battling and queuing for an initial assessment of needs issue, people face another queue and wait for follow on services.

“It is in this context that Minister Rabbitte has allocated approximately €7.8 million to getting these waiting lists down, but it’s clear that much greater resources need to be allocated here. At this stage it’s a question of political will because the money is there if only there was the political impetus to deliver for these children.

“Parliamentary questions revealed that the HSE has paid €8.7 million in consulting fees in response to the pandemic. This pales in comparison to the €7.8 million for the thousands of autistic children and their families who are waiting for life changing intervention.

“It’s time for Government to start prioritising children. Our motion seeks to change the culture associated with autism in this country and empower the autistic community. It also calls for the implementation of an Autism Advisory Council which would be composed of and engage directly with representatives from the community to build better, evidenced based, people focused policy for the autism community.”

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