A mother whose young daughter had to have her head glued after repeated headbutting was told to watch a video for tips to prevent self-harm after she begged disability services for help.
After Rebecca O’Riordan then complained about this “unsafe” service at her Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT) in Cork, she was told they “could no longer help her” and her daughter was transferred away from the State-funded service.
A recent survey undertaken by disability advocacy group Fuss, of which Ms O’Riordan is a member, found many respondents reported being transferred to another disability care provider following a complaint.
“We were shocked by the number,” she said.
“I made a formal complaint and my daughter was transferred out, without following any policies or procedures.
“The complaint was that their service was unsafe due to a lack of governance and oversight of their staff. They had brand new staff with no supervision.
“They came out to our house, we had said we urgently needed them to come.
“Our daughter had to have her head glued from headbutting. I asked for their help with it and they suggested watching Nanny 911 for tips on self-injury.
“I was furious.”
Following her complaint, she was told the CDNT “had tried their best but could not do any more for her” so she would be transferred to another team.
“It’s not a unique situation, it’s happening all over Cork,” Ms O’Riordan said.
Ms O’Riordan’s daughter was in hospital after she had aspirated during a seizure when she was transferred to another CDNT in May 2022.
Aspiration is when you inhale an object or substance into your airway. Ms O’Riordan’s daughter was too scared to eat or drink after that traumatic episode.
“The hospital said ‘the CDNT needs to step in, we can only stabilise her, they need to work on the psychological and sensory aspect of this’. There was no physical reason she couldn’t eat or drink, it was because she was afraid, and that’s something the hospital couldn’t help with.”
Despite the extreme urgency of this situation, Ms O’Riordan said her daughter has still never met her CDNT to deal with this more than one year later.
The pediatrician in the hospital instead prescribed anti-anxiety medication to the child so she would eat and drink along, with adult laxatives because she is drinking so little.
“She’s still never met them about it. And it was an urgent situation,” Ms O’Riordan said.
After her transfer, she received a letter from her new CDNT acknowledging her daughter had been failed due to a lack of care and that she would continue to be failed because there were no staff to help her.
“On top of that, we have the public health nurse saying, ‘oh does she really need five nappies a day? Can she make it with four?’
A response from the HSE said all HSE workers were “very aware of the importance of children’s disability services and early intervention in the lives of many families all over Ireland.
“We are sorry to those families who have had a poor experience in trying to access services,” a statement said.
Although the HSE could not comment on individual cases, it said a child may be transferred to another Children’s Disability Network Team if they no longer live in the team’s geographic area.
“If there is a breakdown in the relationship between a family and the team, the family will be offered to attend another Children’s Disability Network Team,” it said.
“A plan for a smooth transition to another team will be put in place and agreed with the family. The date of referral to the original team will be used to determine when they will be seen in the new team.
“All services and supports offered to each child and their families, whether they are waitlisted or in service, are evidence informed and based on their individual needs.”
A report this week from the Mental Health Commission into care at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services noted the chronic delays in disability services, which was leaving some children waiting for three years before being seen by services.
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