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Policy On Putting People With Learning Disabilities Into the Community Questioned

Services for people with severe physical and learning disabilities, who are some of the most vulnerable in our society, should be prioritised when it comes to services and it is not happening in the wake of news that over 3,500 people with disabilities under the age of 18 are waiting for their first appointment with an occupational therapist.

In recent weeks I have addressed the various new paths that Ministers are looking at with regard to looking after people with learning and other disabilities in the community and this is another case in point. It is ironic that the powers that be maintain that the services are available in the community but here we are in a situation where there are over 3,500 young people waiting for a first appointment for occupational therapy which is a vital part of their treatment and a proven benefit to their development.

I have spoken to the families of people who have severe learning disabilities who are very concerned at their loved ones being released into the community without the proper services being in place. This latest news makes it even more clear that we are making major decisions about the care of these people before we are putting the services in place. It is a sad state of affairs that so many young people are in this position today and the state needs to prioritise this. Deputy Finian McGrath has been passionate about this issue for many years in opposition and now he is the Minister with responsibility in this area. He now needs to step up to the plate on this issue and whatever argument he needs to make in Government to help these people then he needs to do it.