EARLY Intervention Teams (EIT) for children with disabilities in Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary have double the nation case load, it has been revealed.
HSE West Forum member, Councillor Brian Meaney is not only unhappy with this situation but also that EITs in the Mid-West have four times the number of children per team compared to other counties in the West.
Councillor Meaney was reacting to HSE figures released in response to a Dáil question from Deputy Colm Keaveney. The figures show that nationally there are 58 early intervention teams providing disability services for 6,399 children and young people. That is an average of 110 children and young people per team.
There are 12 EITs providing disability services for 2,764 children in the Mid-West, which is an average of 230 children – double the national average case load per team.
Five EITs provide services to 430 children in Galway, which equates to 86 children per team.
HSE Mid-West area manager, Bernard Gloster said, however, he was particularly pleased with the number, make up and governance of the region’s 12 EITs, which are providing a very “effective response to local communities”.
“We are conscious when any service, such as this is so successful in its approach that it does also seen to correlate with a high level of activity. We will continue to work with the National Social Care Office to further develop our services for children and young people with disabilities,” he said.
Nevertheless, Councillor Meaney is seeking an explanation from the HSE on what he says is “a disproportionate load on EIT teams in the region”.
“There is very little information on the resources or the size of the EI teams so further information is necessary to determine if children and young people with disabilities in the Mid-West are being disproportionately impacted by cutbacks,” he said.
The Mid-West HSE said it is too early at this stage to draw any definitive conclusions from the numbers attending EITs and the number of teams, as set out in the Dáil question. When teams across the country are more evenly balanced in numbers, it stated a better sense of case load comparisons would emerge.
Clare Crusaders clinic manager, Ann Norton said these figures clearly showed there is a significant lack of support for children with special needs.
Over the past two years, Ms Norton has been trying to bring this to the attention of Health Minister James Reilly and Minister Kathleen Lynch through local deputies but to no avail.
Even though the clinic is providing half of the services to Clare children with disabilities, the Independent Local Elections candidate claimed the HSE does not recognise the work being done by the clinic and feels there is no need for the service.
“What would happen to the 350 Clare children receiving therapy without the clinic. We have noticed the rise in new applications coming through the clinic; we are dealing with these numbers even though we have a very small budget to work with compared to the HSE. I have also asked our local deputies to find out how much money is brought into the Clare region for disability and yet again I have received no answer.
“The HSE does not appear to be able to manage the work load as is clearly shown by the inequity in the different regions. The proposed hiring of 80 new therapists will help but it is not nearly enough.
“Early intervention is the key. A child with a diagnosis should not have to wait months for an assessment or an appointment. I would like to know when will the 80 additional therapy staff be in place as the pace of progress is too slow. I would also like to know in exact figures how many hours of therapy each child will receive on a weekly basis?” she asked.
The regional HSE stated the regional disparity is not simply one that could be described as disproportionate. It argued that by the end of 2014 and early 2015 the profile of EITs will have greatly enhanced across the country, both in terms of the staff available to them and the number of teams.
“It is likely at that point, that a more even figure will start to emerge in terms of demand on teams as against the population of the area that they serve. It has to be understood that the number of teams, the length of time that they have been in development and their available staffing, are all factors which contribute to their availability to respond to increasing numbers,” it stated.
The HSE acknowledged that some areas of the country have yet to establish EITs and cited when , for example, Galway and Roscommon are combined, there are only six teams, yet both areas have large populations. It is understandable in this context while case loads are still variable.
HSE area manager for the Mid-West, Bernard Gloster said he was particularly pleased with the number, make up and governance of the region’s 12 EITs.
“We will also be working with our colleagues across the country to share the benefit of our experience to date which is very significant in this area,” he said.