FF seeks Reilly statement on autism funds

Questions raised about decision making process of health minister - Kelleher says

Fianna Fail spokeman on health Billy Kelleher has called on James Reilly to make a statement. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Fianna Fail spokeman on health Billy Kelleher has called on James Reilly to make a statement. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Mon, Jun 24, 2013, 13:40

Fianna Fáil has called on Minister for Health Dr James Reilly to make a “full and frank” statement on the allocation of autism money to his political heartland.

The party was responding to a story in today’s Irish Times which showed that all the money so far provided from a funding boost for autism services has been spent on cutting waiting lists for children with the condition in his political heartland in north Dublin.

Just €300,000 of the €3 million promised over three years by Dr Reilly in January 2012 has so far been allocated, all of it to north Dublin, according to the documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Fianna Fáil said the story raised questions about Dr Reilly’s decision making process. “Any investment in autism services that results in a much-needed reduction in waiting lists is certainly welcome. But thousands of parents of children with autism around the country will be wondering how it is that only Minister Reilly’s own constituency of North Dublin has benefited from this investment,” Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said.

He said it was “extraordinary” that everywhere in the State except an area covering his constituency was subject to a review of autism spending.

“Unfortunately this is just the latest in a series of disturbing revelations raising questions about how Minister Reilly makes important decisions about health service investment,” he said. Controversy over primary care centres in his constituency last year meant he “cannot be given the benefit of the doubt about this matter”, Mr Kelleher said.

He called for a “full and frank statement” from the Minister today “without delay”. “Unless we hear from Minister Reilly today, I will be seeking to raise this in the Dáil tomorrow,”he said.

Of the € 1 million which was supposed to be provided last year, nothing was allocated. The €300,000 allocated this year is being used to fill five speech and language, psychology and occupational therapy posts at the HSE’s therapeutic unit for children with autism, Beechpark Services, in north Dublin. This is sufficient to take 60 to 70 children off its waiting list.

The Minister decided not to allocate the remaining €700,000 which was earmarked by the HSE for early intervention services for children with special needs throughout the country, pending the outcome of a review he ordered into spending on autism services generally.

A spokesman for Dr Reilly said he had approved funding for Beechpark Services in north Dublin because of specific problems with waiting lists in that area. The Minister was trying to increase funding for autism services and early intervention, he said.

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