Child autism services are operating at 75% staffing levels, according to the Minister of State for Disabilities.
Anne Rabbitte was speaking to Newstalk Breakfast after a mother told the show she was forced to leave Ireland to access Autism treatment for her children.
Earlier this week, Jaqueline Ercolani said she had to split up her family to take her two-year-old twins to Brazil for treatment after she was told they would be waiting up to three years in Ireland.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Minister Rabbitte said her aim since taking office has been to “cut all waiting lists for children needing an assessment”.
“I as much as anyone understand the value and need for early intervention,” she said.
“There are approximately, today, 2,000 children waiting on that assessment and it is my determination over the next couple of months to ensure we have a proper system and structure, so we don’t have waiting lists for assessment of needs.
“What I want to get to is a place where every assessment becomes an intervention.”
She said she had carried out a staff census and found that her teams are currently operating at three-quarters capacity.
“I need staff,” she said. “I have carried out a staff census and at this moment, I have 91 teams that were reconfigured in 2021.
“We carried out a staff census and my staff census says all my teams only have 75% of that complement of staff they need to do their job.”
She said she also needs funding to cover staff absences.
“I also need to recognise the fact as well that, at any given time, 75% of the compliment does not include people on maternity leave and sick leave,” she said.
“I need to ensure I have funding to pay to cover those maternity leaves because it is invariably a very much female-led industry.”
Earlier, Ms Ercolani said she first contacted doctors with concerns about her children’s development in August 2020.
“When you hear the word autism, it is really scary when you don’t know anything,” she said. “Especially when they say to you, you need to act now.
“When your child has symptoms of autism, you have to act now; get treatment now because delays are not just going to disappear, no, delays are going to get worse and worse.”
She said the care they have received in the past few months has really made a difference.
“They are improving, thank God,” she said. “The approach here is really good.
“The level of professionalism is really good. Of course, I am paying for it but in Ireland, even if I paid, I wouldn’t have any treatment.”
She urged people all over Ireland to pull together to cut autism waiting lists.
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