FCI Statement on RTÉ Investigates: Ireland's Unregulated Psychologists

Posted on Monday 06 March 2023


Monday 6th March 2023: Reacting to RTÉ Investigates: Ireland’s Unregulated Psychologists, Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy, Family Carers Ireland said:

“We are deeply worried about the impact of children waiting long periods for assessments. Gridlock in hospitals and lengthy waiting lists, combined with a perpetual shortage in supports and services and the cost-of-living squeeze, has created the perfect storm for family carers. They have nowhere to turn as the system has utterly failed them. Parents spend so much time fighting with the State for their children that it leaves them exhausted and broken.

“Too often, children who are referred for early intervention services face delays in getting the therapies they need, may not get all the services recommended, and sometimes don’t get any at all. Failure to provide children with early intervention services misses a critical window of opportunity and increases the risk of significant developmental and learning delays and, in some cases, appropriate school places for children.

“This has forced many parents to pay privately for services pushing them into accessing cheaper and often unreliable and non-trustworthy private services. Our State of Caring Report 2022 highlighted over 52% of those surveyed reported that at least one of the people they care for are currently on a waiting list reporting over two-year delays for vital supports, procedures, therapists, needs assessments etc. Many carers spoke about having to go to great expense to secure private psychological and educational assessments for their children.

“Family carers are expected to fill the significant and substantial service gaps in the health and social care system, regardless of the costs to them. As a result, many experience fuel and food poverty, with many reporting a reliance on food banks and charities, rely on borrowing from family, bank loans and overdrafts.

“The State has primary responsibility for implementing the rights of children with disabilities, however, it is consistently falling short. The Programme for Government explicitly states that it will prioritise early diagnosis interventions and access to services. It also commits to extending the remit of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to secure timely assessment for both child and adult psychological services. This has not happened. In fact, for many families, things have gotten worse rather than better.

“The task of securing adequate funding for disability services is a recurrent challenge and we are aware of the persistent difficulties in recruiting and retaining health professionals, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, psychologists, and mental health professionals. However, the challenges in the sector are not attributable to funding and resource deficits alone. Barriers to accessing services are also caused by poor planning, a lack of interagency coordination and collaboration, weak data collection and unnecessary bureaucracy. Perhaps the most significant issue contributing to the chaos within children’s disability services is the failure to invest in early intervention programmes, which are critical to enabling children with disabilities to reach their full potential.

“It is imperative that all children with a disability get the supports they need early and often in the years when it makes the greatest difference. That will only happen through direct intervention from the Government. Family Carers Ireland is calling on the Government to urgently address the gross inadequacy of children’s disability services by extending the NTPF to include psychology, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy.”