HSE denies political interference in autism fund
Executive responds as money allocated to Minister for Health’s political heartland
The €300,000 allocated this year is being used to fill five posts at the HSE’s therapeutic unit for children with autism, Beechpark Services, in north Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times
The Health Service Executive has denied there was any political interference in the allocation of all the money provided so far from an autism fund to the Minister for Health’s political heartland.
Laverne McGuinness, HSE chief operations officer, said the decision to allocate funding was only based on a HSE report . “I can say categorically that I did not have any political interference with regard to where this €300,000 would be spent,” she told RTÉ Radio.
Ms McGuinness was responding to a story in yesterday’s Irish Times which showed 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 James Reilly’s 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.
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.
“There was a HSE report and based on that report a recommendation was that €300,000 would be invested in Beechpark Services in the Dublin north area,” Ms McGuinness said. She said the report was “available for publication”.
Former junior health minister Róisín Shortall said “yet again, a HSE person has been put out to defend the indefensible on behalf of the Department of Health and the Minister”.
Ms Shortall told RTÉ Radio “different areas have different needs” but all decisions should be taken in an “open and transparent manner”.
“We need to bring an end to ...potential cronyism or secret decision making around public money,” she said. “Nobody is denying there was a need for services in north Dublin....but there are also long waiting lists in other areas.”
Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the allocation as “outrageous and discriminatory”.
“What of the needs of children with autism in other areas of the state, where there is a long identified shortage of speech and language therapists and other service needs? Is Minister Reilly in denial of the essential needs of children with autism outside his own constituency and the general north Dublin area?”he asked in a statement.
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.