Dáil Éireann - Volume 486 - 29 January, 1998

Written Answers. - Speech and Language Therapy.

89. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans, if any, he has for a speech therapy service in special schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21688/97]

[759] 92. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are adequate supports for a child when assessed in the education system as requiring speech and language therapy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21612/97]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 92 together.

Health boards provide a speech and language therapy service to the community, including school-children. Sometimes, where numbers justify it, a health board will provide a speech and language therapy class in a particular school. However, the report of the Special Education Review Committee, which was published in October 1993, recommended that speech therapists working full-time in schools should be funded by the Department of Education.

Speech and language therapy services in all areas are in need of development. Health boards regard this as a priority and 31 additional posts of speech and language therapist have been created in the boards in the last four years.

The report of the Review Group on Health and Personal Social Services for People with Physical and Sensory Disabilities Towards an Independent Future, which was published in December 1996 sets out the requirements for the development of these services, including speech and language therapy services. As recommended in the report, regional co-ordinating committees for services for people with physical and sensory disabilities are being put in place in each of the health boards. One of the primary functions of the co-ordinating committees will be to advise the chief executive officer of each board on priorities for the allocation of funds available for the development of the services. An allocation of £3 million has been provided in the budget for the development of these services in 1998. The question of allocating funds for the provision of additional speech and language therapist posts will be considered by each health board in consultation with the local co-ordinating committee.

The total allocation of additional funds to physical and sensory disability services in 1998 will be £8.4 million when the Estimates provision and capital allocation are taken into account.