Over 4,000 children in Ireland have been waiting for over a year for psychological treatment, a parliamentary question has revealed.
The question, which was submitted by Deputy Mark Ward to the Minister of Health, also found that 10,000 people are currently awaiting psychological treatment in the country, with 9,000 of these being children.
Deputy Ward, TD for Dublin Mid-West and Sinn Fein spokesperson for mental health, said the waiting lists are “unacceptable.”
“I was both shocked and saddened to receive a response to a parliamentary question that stated that over 10,000 people are waiting on psychology treatment,” Deputy Ward said.
“Nearly 9,000 of those waiting on treatment are children with over 4,000 children waiting over a year for an appointment with a psychologist.
“This is unacceptable. Early intervention is key to a child’s development and children are missing out on lost opportunities because of they cannot access the treatment they need.
“These lengthy waits are not only completely unacceptable from a medical point of view; they are causing enormous stress and anxiety to the children and families stuck on endless lists.
“The waiting times vary significantly depending on what area of the country is looked at.
“For example, in CH06 which includes Wicklow and Dun Laoghaire there were nine children aged between five and 17 waiting more than a year for a psychology appointment.
“Nationally there are 4385 children in this age group were waiting over a year for an appointment.
“Meanwhile, in CH07, which includes my own areas of Clondalkin, Lucan and Palmerstown there was 935 in this age group waiting over a year for an appointment.”
Deputy Ward said mental health treatment has to “move away from post code politics and have a uniformed approach.”
“Treatment should be based on need and not where you are living.”
In response to Deputy Ward’s question, the Health Service Executive said in a statement that “the spread of Covid-19 is posing significant challenges for many service areas, including therapy services.
“In light of these unprecedented challenges together with the Government’s guidance on social distancing and on ‘cocooning’ for those aged over 70, the HSE has had to reassess its operation of Community Therapy Services nationally, to ensure that the assessed needs of those clients with the highest priority are met.”
However, Deputy Ward says that the current waiting lists are not a result of the ongoing pandemic but “these delays were happening years before Covid reached our shores.”
“In the response I received the HSE seem to be using Covid as an excuse for the delays in treatment.
“These waiting lists are as a result of years of under-investment and priority in the provision of mental health services by successive Governments.”
“There seems to be a persistent crisis in the provision of mental health services across the country.
“The government and the HSE have a duty to do better by these children.
“It is vital that real efforts are made to address these waiting lists. Such deficits in mental health services for children cannot be allowed to continue.
“The Government need to stop playing the old fashioned three card trick, where children are moved from list to list without receiving this essential treatment.”