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									                                        Disability News


€2.5m intellectual disability centre planned for Clonakilty

Announcing UEmploy - Promoting employment for European citizens with disabilities

Launch of the 'Our Say, Our Rights' Artwork

Community/Local Update

Students raise awareness about disability

Time is running out for disability staff facing redundancy

Trinity’s First M.Sc. Degree in Disability Studies Students Graduate

Illegal parking crackdown


Teens learn about disability (Gorey Guardian)

Sex assault of disabled girl (Herald)

Autism 'chaos' as one-third wait over year for diagnosis (Irish Independent)

UN criticises Ireland's treatment of disabled (Irish Health.com)

Gilmore defends cuts to disability payments (Irish Independent)

Review of disability services to ensure VFM (Irish Medical Times)

Disability fund will meet demand, claims department (Irish Examiner)

1 in 5 has long-term disabilities (Irish Health.com)

Grealish welcomes new agreement to help people with disabilities into the workforce
(Galway Advertiser)

€2.5m intellectual disability centre planned for Clonakilty

A €2.5 million state-of-the-art facility for adults and children with intellectual disability is planned for
the West Cork town of Clonakilty. Work is expected to begin next spring on the first phase of the
development by the group CoAction — a clinical facility and child services area, as well as a training
centre and cafe for adults is envisaged. Planning permission is being sought for the building, which
will cater for up to 85 children and 25 adults, and is expected to cost in the region of €1.5m.

It is hoped that this tranche will have been completed by mid-2013. Phase Two, a residential facility,
depends on the provision of grants from the Department of the Environment. "These grants have
been stopped for the past few years so we are waiting for their reinstatement," said Maurice Walsh,
chief executive of CoAction.

The housing, he said, would comprise a mix of local authority houses and supported independent
living for CoAction. The residential accommodation will comprise five units, each of which will have a
capacity to accommodate two people. Three of the units are earmarked for CoAction clients.

The development will take place at Convent Way, at the Cork approach to the town but close to the
heart of Clonakilty. "This is the fourth major project that CoAction will have undertaken in the last five
years," said Mr Walsh. He said 75% of the money would come from fundraising. "Overall, most of our
developments have come about due to fundraising but, because of the difficulty in accessing many
state grants, our recent project, the Child and Family Centre in Bantry, was 100% funded by the
proceeds of fundraising. "The support of the people of Clonakilty is crucial. This will be a major
addition to the town and surrounding area and we will work with the business people and
organisations in the town and surrounding areas to build support for our fund raising efforts."

The development, Mr Walsh said, would be at the heart of the community "and would include state-of-
the-art facilities for the region as well as providing purpose-built housing specifically designed to
facilitate supported independent living accommodation for service users".

Preparation for a planning application is at an advanced stage while an extensive public awareness
and publicity campaign is scheduled to begin in the coming months, Mr Walsh added.


Announcing UEmploy - Promoting employment for European citizens with disabilities

The UEmploy project brings together the expertise of Enable Ireland and six partner organisations to
promote employment for European citizens with disabilities. Disability organisations from Romania,
Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland and Ireland will develop, test and introduce a consultancy model to be
rolled out in each country.

The aim of the project is to create a range of services and solutions to support both people with
disabilities and employers. Many companies realize that inclusive employment is an effective strategy.
It enhances productivity and also meets corporate social responsibility targets. But most employers
still have no real experience of employing a disabled person. Proactive cooperation with employers is
needed. This counteracts stereotypes prevents discrimination and demonstrates the real advantages
that stem from using the skills and capacities of employees with disabilities.

The UEmploy partners

       carry out national studies and present findings in the UEmploy European Report
       develop consultancy instruments (checklists and tools to describe job-specific competencies,
        support for job-matching processes, potential problem identification, analysis of environmental
        obstacles, provision of employer recommendations)
       train consultants
       pilot the elaborated consultancy model
       develop consultancy networks
       launch awareness campaigns to promote the importance of inclusive employment and the
        valuable contribution people with disabilities can make
       forge dynamic links with business and public agencies to ensure sustainability of the
        consultancy services.

The kick-off project meeting took place in Iasi, Romania, on 20-21 January 2011. At this, partners
started the team building process, provided and exchanged information on all project aspects, agreed
partner roles and tasks and planned in detail the project work between the first and second meetings.
The partners demonstrated a high level of commitment to project cooperation and target.

The second project meeting was held in the end of June 2011 in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. It was
focused on analysis results of the project survey carried out among employers in the project partner
countries, discussions on the findings provided by the national reports and structure of the common
European Report. The partners agreed on project training materials and specified the dates and
programme for the anticipated training of consultants in each partner country. The meeting in Sofia
confirmed common understanding of the project goals by all the members of the UEmploy consortium
and their efforts to make the labour market more accessible to people with disabilities.


Launch of the 'Our Say, Our Rights' Artwork

On Wednesday 14th September 2011, more than 130 people with intellectual disabilities and their
advocates came together in Trinity College Dublin for the launch of the artwork for the 'Our Say, Our
Rights' tapestry on human rights and intellectual disability. This project was organized by IDRights:
Human Rights and People with Intellectual Disabilities, a participatory action movement set up in
2008 by Dr. Fintan Sheerin of TCD School of Nursing and Midwifery. The event brought together the
work of 147 people with intellectual disabilities, who submitted squares representing what they
consider to be the important rights-related dimensions in their lives. This event provided these
individuals with an opportunity to have their voices heard and to express what they value and want in
their lives in 2011.

The event built on the work that was done in the 'Right. Let's Stand Up for Ourselves' events, that
were held in Dublin in 2009 and 2010, and in Limerick in 2010.

Whereas there have been significant developments in relation to disability rights over the past years,
these have often had little or no direct impacted on the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.
Thus, many of the individuals registered on the National Intellectual Disability Database still
experience discrimination, inequality and marginalisation at least some time during their lives, whether
in relation to specific issues such as education, health, access to public services and employment or
to more general issues such as non-inclusion in society In response to such realities, advocacy
movements and rights commissions have emerged locally, and have striven to address individuals'
and groups' rights, but there has been no cohesive national forum for such endeavours.

The project and in particular the launch provided a platform where the participants were able to air
their own voice as experts in their own lives. Dr. Sheerin highlighted the importance of this event as
one that "gives a voice to a group of Irish people who are often not heard or, indeed, listened to. In
doing so, it celebrates their resilience in the face of adversity and in expressing what they consider
important in their lives, demonstrates that they desire the same things as do other members of Irish
society - above all, equality, respect and meaning". This work is closely aligned to TCD School of
Nursing and Midwifery's commitment to promoting health equality for marginalised groups and, in
particular, to Dr. Sheerin's current endeavours to set up a Trinity Centre for Intellectual Disability


Community/Local Update

Students raise awareness about disability

Students at Arklow Community College participated in an interesting initiative recently designed to
raise awareness about disability.

As part of this year's Leaving Certificate Applied Programme sixth year students became involved in
the project on a local scale and elected to highlight the achievements of the 'Gaelic Warriors' rugby
team whose members are wheelchair users and represent their country on an international scale.

The participating students set about researching their chosen subject and invited the team to their
school to discuss their lives. At the end of the discussion there was nothing left to do but to get down
to the physical challenge and the Arklow Community College Students formed a team to compete
against the Gaeilic Warriors. Up to 30 representatives from each of the Arklow secondary schools
were invited to share in the experience and attend the match at Coral Leisure Centre.

Teams were made up from each group and the challenge got underway.

Each school contributed to a charity collection which helped to purchase a specialised wheelchair for
the team.


Time is running out for disability staff facing redundancy

Eight workers employed by the People With Disabilities Ireland (PWDI) are facing redundancy in ten
days time as the agency’s funding has been terminated by the Department of Justice, Equality &
Defence. The Department announced the decision in November, and staff were immediately put on
notice. IMPACT trade union, which represents most of the affected staff, are continuing to make
efforts to meet with the Minister of State for Disability, Kathleen Lynch TD, to discuss the situation
facing the workers.

IMPACT official Christine Cully explained, “The organisation is run by people with disabilities, their
families and carers, and provides a range of services to people throughout the country. The
termination of funding has come as a blow to people with disabilities, for whom the organisation
provided a vital advocacy role, and to this small group of dedicated staff who are facing into a very
bleak situation come the end of the month.”

Ms Cully added “It is in the interests of everyone with disabilities in Ireland that their voice remains
heard, and to ensure that these workers, who have shown determination and commitment in their
work with PWDI, are not sacrificed in an arbitrary cost cutting exercise.” Ms Cully explained that
IMPACT wrote to Minister Kathleen Lynch on December 6th seeking a meeting to discuss the
imminent redundancies at the agency, and that an acknowledgement by the Minister was received by
IMPACT on December 14th. However, there has been no further contact with the Minister’s office

Time is now running out for the eight workers, based in Dublin, Kerry, Cork and Clare, whose
employment is set to conclude on December 31st 2011.

PWDI has said that the move will have a detrimental effect on the lives of thousands of people with
disabilities, and that the Department’s decision shows a complete disregard for the voluntary work of
hundreds of members. PWDI has also said that the withdrawal of its annual funding would set back
the disability agenda by 15 years. Defending the decision to terminate the agency’s funding, Minister
Lynch rejected the claims and stated that most of the funding was spent on administration and the
running of the PWDI head office.

IMPACT said that if administration costs were the issue, that these could be discussed. Ms Cully said
“Elsewhere across the public service we have been able to effect huge cost reductions. If
administration costs are the issue it makes far more sense to discuss these in the context of how
other agencies have reduced their spend, than to simply cut off an organisation and force its staff to
face redundancy.”


Trinity’s First M.Sc. Degree in Disability Studies Students Graduate

The first cohort of students with a Masters degree in Disability Studies at Trinity College Dublin were
recently conferred with degrees.

The M.Sc. in Disability Studies is an innovative inter-disciplinary programme that provides a common
ground for the study of disability in Ireland and internationally. Graduates of the M.Sc. in Disability
Studies develop a deep understanding of disability from social, historical, cultural, economic and
political perspectives. The programme equips graduates with the knowledge, analytical skills and
insights to translate rights into reality globally.

This pioneering Masters programme is hosted by the National Institute for Intellectual Disability (NIID)
and benefits from the input of the following schools in Trinity College Dublin: Social Work and Social
Policy, Nursing and Midwifery, Law, Religions and Theology, Economics and the Centre for Deaf

Commenting on the occasion of the graduation, Dr Christine Linehan, Director of NIID said: “The
National Institute for Intellectual Disability is delighted to celebrate the graduation of our first cohort of
graduates on the M.Sc. in Disability Studies. The knowledge and skills obtained by our graduates is
particularly important at this time of tremendous change in disability policy and practice at both
national and international level. Our graduates are very well placed to drive this change agenda and
transform the disability landscape”.

"I am delighted I chose the Disability Studies course I had been looking for a course that suited me for
a number of years. It has opened my mind to new ways of thinking about disability. I have recently
been promoted in work and am assisting with putting together staff training that promotes a rights
based approach when working with the young service users I work with. I hope the course continues
to run and many more disabled people benefit from the new knowledge and insight that may be
gained from it,” commented graduate Imelda Gaughan.


Illegal parking crackdown

A crackdown on drivers who park in spaces reserved for disabled people is to get under way in
Killarney. Gardaí, traffic wardens and shopping centre owners are being urged by the local town
council to pay special attention to the continuing problem.

Fianna Fáil councillor Tom Doherty said some drivers were "pig ignorant" in relation to parking in
spaces designated for those with disabilities. He felt it necessary, he said, to highlight the issue on a
number of occasions to "educate" people. He called for an increase in the maximum €2,000 fine
which can be imposed on offenders. "Killarney is a leading tourist town and I’d like to see it 100%
disability-friendly," he said.
Labour councillor Sean O’Grady called for the clamping of vehicles illegally parked in reserved
spaces, but town clerk Michael O’Leary said the council had no authority to do that. "Another thing is if
cars are clamped, spaces will not available," Mr O’Leary added.

On the proposal of Independent councillor Niall O’Callaghan, the council is to contact local shopping
centres asking them to ensure parking spaces for the disabled are reserved for such people. Signs
are to be erected at dedicated spaces, advising drivers of the fines that could be imposed.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has ruled out increasing fines for offenders saying what was needed
was a change of attitude.



Teens learn about disability (Gorey Guardian)

Any stereotypes about people with disabilities were firmly challenged when well-known Wexford
personalities, Sean Connick and Edel Reck met with local teenagers in Gorey Library as part of
National Accessibility Week last week.

Edel and Sean, who are both wheelchair users, appeared in the groundbreaking TV series 'One for
the Road' earlier this year and recounted tales of their exciting and challenging adventures to their
young audience.

In each episode of One for the Road, a celebrity travelled with someone with a disability and, in each
challenge, the able-bodied person simulated the conditions facing the disabled companion attempting
to understand their perspective.

Wexford-born Edel was accompanied by Kamal Ibrahim, the current Mr World, in Western Colorado
trying out trail bike riding and perilous downhill mountainbiking.

Former Minister-of-state, Seán Connick, used a specially adapted car with hand controls when he and
snooker legend Ken Doherty went stock car racing rally driving at a track in Yorkshire.

The teenagers were shown clips from the series before taking part in a question and answer session
with Sean and Edel.


Sex assault of disabled girl (Herald)

A man who followed a 14-year-old girl with Down Syndrome into a shop and sexually assaulted her
has been given a suspended jail sentence of three years. Ahmed Reaz (35) of Leinster Street, Athy,
Co Kildare pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Fiona Murphy, prosecuting, said the victim and her mother were followed by Reaz into Gamestop in
Rathmines. As the girl's mother queued at the counter she noticed Reaz approach her daughter and
place his left hand on her breast.

She screamed at him and ran after him after he fled from the shop. Reaz ran into the nearby Swan
Shopping Centre and was apprehended by a security guard.

UN criticises Ireland's treatment of disabled (Irish Health.com)

A top United Nations committee has said it is extremely concerned about the 'persistence of
discrimination' against people with physical and mental disabilities in Ireland.

In a report on Ireland, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights said that it was
particularly concerned about the large number of people with mental disabilities who are
accommodated in psychiatric hospitals, when their state of health 'would allow them to live in the

The report referred to people with disabilities, including those working in sheltered workshops, who do
not have the status of employee and so do not qualify for minimum wage.

Concern was also expressed about the 1,200 Traveller families currently living on roadsides, without
water or sanitary facilities.

The committee questioned why the Human Rights Commission, established in 2000, was still not in
operation. It also regretted that the Government's Disability Bill, which was recently withdrawn, did not
contain a rights-based approach towards those with disabilities.


Gilmore defends cuts to disability payments (Irish Independent)

Tanaiste Minister Eamon Gilmore has insisted that young disabled people will still have access to the
same services despite massive cuts to their allowance. Disability payments have been slashed from
€188 to €100 for 18-21-year-olds and from €188 to €144 for 22 to 24-year-olds. But the Tanaiste said
the intention was to standardise levels of social welfare payments across the board, bringing them in
line with jobseeker's allowance.

"All the services that are available to people with disabilities, there are no cuts in these services," Mr
Gilmore said. "There are reforms in which payments are being made." He insisted that he believed
any spending cuts announced yesterday were made in the fairest possible way. These cuts also
included a complete cut in disability payments to 16 and 17-year-olds; also a payment which covers
domiciliary care in the family home has been extended. "Any reduction in payment or any cut is
difficult," Mr Gilmore said. "It's not something any of us want to be doing. These are changes that
have to be made." The Tanaiste said he was aware the Budget would impact individuals and families.
"None of us want to be doing that," he told RTE Radio. "That's not something I want to be doing, that's
not something Brendan Howlin wants to be doing. "The reality of where we are in terms of our
finances means we do have to reduce public expenditure and we have to do that in a fair way." Mr
Gilmore insisted that the Budget does not increase tax on workers, does not cut the basic rates of
social welfare and child benefits, and maintains services for people with disabilities and children in

Meanwhile, Health Minister James Reilly has rejected claims that cuts to his department's budget will
lead to a massive hike in health insurance premiums. Plans to end subsidies which see public
hospitals cover the cost of private beds sparked fears that private health insurance could soar by
anything from €500 up to €1,400 a year for the average family. But Dr Reilly insisted that insurance
premiums will not rise as much as expected. "There is a huge amount of area within health insurance
in relation to where savings can be made," he said. "The costs that are there at the moment can be
tackled to substantially reduce the cost to the insurer and thus to the insured. "I accept utterly,
however, that this will put pressure upward on premiums but I don't accept for one minute that it will
lead to a 50pc increase."

The minister accepted that some insurance customers will be forced to drop their health insurance
premiums as a result of more pressure on their personal finances. It is estimated about 100,000 left
the market this year alone. "I can't predict with any certainty how many people will decide to drop their
health insurance," he said. "Some are going to - there's no question about that - as people find it more
difficult to cope. "We do face an upward struggle but it's one I'm determined to succeed in."

Dr Reilly added that negotiations with consultants and hospitals will take place in the new year to
reconsider their charges. "Nobody's going to die because of health cuts. That's a certainty," he


Review of disability services to ensure VFM (Irish Medical Times)

The Value for Money (VFM) and Policy Review of Disability Services will ensure the “very substantial
funding of €1.5 billion” provided to the specialist disability health sector is used to maximum benefit for
persons with disability, Minister for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch told the Dáil recently.

A major priority for the Government in the coming months will be to finalise the current VFM review,
the Minister said. “It’s more important than ever that large-scale spending programmes of this nature
are subject to detailed periodic review,” she said.

Regarding the level of funding for the disability sector in Budget 2012, the Cork North Central TD said
the very difficult financial position facing the Exchequer will require careful management across all
areas of expenditure.

Although referring to 2011, the HSE expenditure on health services for people with disabilities this
year will be €1.5 billion. “Special consideration was given to disability and mental health in Budget
2011 through a maximum reduction of just 1.8 per cent in the allocation for the two sectors,” the
Minister explained.

This was a relatively low reduction in comparison to other sectors that received a five per cent
reduction in funding and it recognises that these services are provided to vulnerable groups and
should help to ensure that existing services are maintained, she added.


Disability fund will meet demand, claims department (Irish Examiner)

The Department of Education says a 20% cut to a fund for students with disabilities will leave enough
money to meet demand, just three months after telling another department it could seriously affect
numbers taking up college places. A group promoting college access for disabled students has
warned that the €2.8 million cut from the fund for students with disabilities (FSD) will reverse the
progress made in recent years.

The €13.7m fund supported about 6,000 students in the past year, up from 4,964 the previous
academic year, enabling colleges to provide equipment, special materials, technology and transport
for those with a range of disabilities and learning difficulties.

A department spokesperson said yesterday that the funding available for 2012 would be sufficient to
meet demand, and the 20% cut reflected reduced drawdown from the fund. "Greater integration of
the supports to students with disabilities into the core activities of institutions has led to lesser
dependence on supplementary funding through the FSD," the department said. It added that there is
often lower take-up by students of accommodations agreed at the beginning of the academic year,
and students accessing the fund in first year do not necessarily need to access it at the same level in
subsequent years.

But the department’s submission to Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin’s
comprehensive review of expenditure (CRE) in September tells a different story. The document
published on Tuesday identified the potential saving but said it would mean the allocation per student
would have to be decreased, either across the board or using a weighted approach depending on
each disability type. "This potentially would have a serious impact on the number of students with
disabilities taking up places in further and higher education and impact negatively on the progress
made in this area," officials wrote.

Asked how the position had changed, the department spokesperson said the CRE document was
produced earlier in the year and the situation would have been examined more closely since then.

But the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) said people with disabilities
remain grossly under-represented and, without the help of the fund to enable blind students to read or
to provide interpreters for deaf people, students will not succeed. "Thanks to these supports and their
own hard work and effort, students have been gaining qualifications and going on to develop careers
in occupations from finance to nursing. It is incomprehensible to understand how a Government
committed to a modern, fair, socially inclusive and equal society could jeopardise such progress," said
AHEAD director Ann Heelan.


1 in 5 has long-term disabilities (Irish Health.com)

Up to one in five people in Ireland has a long-term disability and most of these have major difficulties
performing every day activities, a new report has shown. The report, A Social Portrait of People with
Disabilities in Ireland, set out to examine the different circumstances of people with disabilities in this

Based on figures from the 2006 Census and the National Disability Survey (NDS), it estimated that
between one in five and one in six people have a long-term disability, with most of these disabilities
being ‘acquired through the life course rather than being present from birth'. The report noted nine
different types of disability, with the average person having between two and three different

The most common type of disability - affecting 184,000 people - relates to mobility and dexterity,
which includes problems with walking, picking up small objects and carrying things. The second most
common type of disability is pain, affecting 153,000 people. Other types include intellectual and
learning disabilities (72,000), hearing disabilities (58,000) and mental health disabilities (111,000).

The report found that two in three people with a disability could not perform everyday activities at all,
or they had major difficulties doing so. Those with a mobility or dexterity-related disability were most
likely to have problems with everyday activities. The report also noted that people with disabilities
were more likely to have health problems compared to the general population. The research pointed
out that as most disability is acquired during a person's life, ‘the prevalence of disability among
children is lower than among adults'.

The two most common types of disability found in children are intellectual and learning disabilities and
remembering and concentrating disabilities. The report pointed out that ‘educational disadvantage
and disability bear a reciprocal relationship'. For example, more than one in three young adults with a
disability were found to have left school before completing secondary school, compared to one in six
of their peers.

Meanwhile, people with a disability ‘are only half as likely to be at work as the general population
between the ages of 25 and 64'.

One in three people with disabilities who were not working said they would be interested in a job if the
circumstances were right. This figures rose to two in three among younger adults with a disability. The
report also noted that people with disabilities were at a higher risk of experiencing income poverty and
being ‘unable to afford basic goods and services'.

Commenting on the report, the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, said that she ‘remained
concerned with the findings that people with disabilities still have a higher poverty risk than other
groups, are more likely to be unemployed and experience exclusion from a range of everyday
activities'. "It is important that we do as much as is possible to ensure that those who did least well out
of the Celtic Tiger are protected from the burden of economic adjustment," she said.

The report emphasised that as the population ages, ‘there is likely to be an increase in the prevalence
of disability. This will heighten the challenge of facilitating the full participation of people with
disabilities in social life'. Commenting on the findings, one of the report's authors, Dorothy Watson, of
the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), described people with disabilities as a ‘very
diverse group, who share many challenges in the areas of education, work and social participation.
"Policies to promote the social inclusion of people with a disability will need to be broadly-based,
taking account of the physical, social, educational, labour market, income support and legal
environments," she added.

The report was also written by Prof Brian Nolan of University College Dublin.


Grealish welcomes new agreement to help people with disabilities into the workforce
(Galway Advertiser)

A new agreement between Microsoft and Workability International, which will help more people with
disabilities enter the workforce, has been welcomed by Galway West TD Noel Grealish.

The Worldwide Education Alliance Agreement was signed in Brussels this week. The signing was
attended by Dep Grealish and will allow Workability International and Microsoft to develop new
education opportunities for people with disabilities.

Workability represents 3.4 million people with disabilities. One of the benefits will see the Workability
members gaining further access to the Microsoft IT Academy Programme which in the future will
provide additional enhanced, inclusive, and specially adapted training programmes for the disabled
workforce. It will be officially launched in Belfast and Dublin in 2012.

“The pilot scheme for one such project is being managed and implemented by USEL in Northern
Ireland, and with the aid of Galway company, Netlink, it will be distributed worldwide,” said Dep

“The fact that Workability International and Microsoft are global organisations, the collaborative
support, and involvement in this project will give much greater recognition and awareness of the
project,” he added, “and will make it easier for those who gain certification to find employment. I look
forward to seeing this project brought to Galway at some stage in the future.”


Autism 'chaos' as one-third wait over year for diagnosis (Irish Independent)

More than one in three parents trying to find out if their child is suffering from autism are being forced
to wait over a year for a diagnosis. Official HSE figures obtained by the Irish Independent under the
Freedom of Information Act also reveal huge regional discrepancies in diagnostic waiting lists across
the country. Some children are forced to endure two and three-year delays, while others are seen in
less than two months.

Health experts last night criticised the "chaotic" system of autism diagnosis. They said delays in
diagnosing children who may have autism could result in a crucial "window of opportunity" for early
intervention being missed, which may lead to slower and limited development of critical social and
behavioural skills.
In Cavan/Monaghan, 28 children aged between six and 18 are on a three-year waiting list in one
centre -- with no medical specialist employed in the region to see them.

An Enable Ireland facility in the area, which has nine staff available, has no waiting list for children
aged up to six years. There are also two-year delays in Cork and Meath and as much as a three-year
delay for some in south Tipperary.

Some 79 children in Sligo, Leitrim, west Cavan and Donegal are facing a 14-month wait to see the
one consultant child and teenage psychiatrist based in Letterkenny.

In contrast, waiting times in the Dublin region are all less than a year, with six-month lists in the
majority of areas.

Parents waiting on a diagnosis for their child cannot travel outside their catchment area to a different
HSE region. However, voluntary organisations such as Irish Autism Action provide diagnostic services
to families from all over the country. The figures reveal that more than 1,000 children around the
country are currently waiting for a possible autism diagnosis.

Of 1,040 children on waiting lists nationally, 35pc will have to wait for up to six months, 23 pc have to
wait for six months to a full year, 11pc for one year to two years, 25pc for over two years and almost
6pc -- or 60 children -- for as long as three years or more. A possible diagnosis may be given after a
child has been assessed by a multi-disciplinary team. They may be referred to the team by a GP or a
clinic because of concerns about development delays.

The child can be seen by an occupational therapist, a speech and language therapist, a psychiatrist
and a psychologist and may be observed both at home and in school before any diagnosis is made --
a process that can take up to six months. The previously unreleased figures also show priority is
being given to children under five, who must be given an appointment within six months of their first
referral, as stipulated in the Disability Act. But in some cases, the six-month timeframe is being
breached. Dublin North Central and Dublin North have 10.5 month and eight-month waiting lists
respectively. And while priority is given to those under five, older children are put on longer waiting

In Meath, seven children up to the age of six are waiting six months. However, 36 children between
six and 18 face a wait of two years for diagnosis in the same area.

A spokesman for the HSE last night refused to comment on the regional discrepancies -- but, despite
the figures, insisted all children were being seen to within the specified timeframe. "The information
we have is that all children are being seen in the timeframe as set out in the legislation. It doesn't
follow that because you're on a waiting list for one service, you're not getting attention. There are
waiting lists, and we acknowledge that there are areas that have to be addressed, but there is
ongoing funding for disability services. We are recruiting 12 consultant child psychiatrists and there
are eight additional teams going into place nationally."

Professor Michael Fitzgerald, an expert in child and adolescent psychiatry at Trinity College, said it
should be possible for a child to be diagnosed within six months, but said the ideal wait was two
months. "There is no good explanation and no good reason for the delays," he said. "This is a critical
issue and needs to be seen as a medical emergency. It sounds a bit chaotic and it is worrying. Early
intervention is absolutely critical because the brain is still 'plastic' and it is possible to increase the
number of connections between the nerve cells."

Kevin Whelan, CEO of Irish Autism Action, said his organisation would volunteer to go up to poorly
served areas and help with waiting lists. "The HSE talk about early intervention and how important it
is," he said. "But how can you have early intervention if you have a three-year waiting list? We're
making a public offer to the HSE to go up to places like Cavan/Monaghan and help to get it done."

Fine Gael's health spokesman Dr James Reilly last night described the waiting times and regional
discrepancies as "unacceptable" and "completely unsatisfactory".

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