02 December 2005

School head’s fury at two year waiting list


The principal of Holy Cross Boys School has spoken of his outrage that one of his pupils will have waited over two years to receive treatment for his special behavioural needs.
Headmaster Terry Laverty, his teaching staff and local councillor Margaret McClenaghan have all expressed their deep concern that a little boy, who was diagnosed with having possible Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) two years ago will only receive treatment in February 2006.
“Originally we were told by the North and West Belfast Trust that the books are closed on new referrals, but after the North Belfast News got in touch, the child now has an appointment,” Terry Laverty said.
“It seems that you can get a referral no problem in any part of the city for this, but in North Belfast it’s a different situation.
“The time this child and his parents have waited is totally wrong. I have several other children in the same position in the school who have been kept waiting for treatment for similar behavioural issues. I’m sure other schools in North Belfast are in a similar positioni.
“At the end of the day, you cannot be judged on your postcode, this is an equality and human rights issue.”
The six-year-old child from Ardoyne is a primary three pupil now and his needs in the classroom and at home are great.
He shows all the classic signs of ADHD, including an inability to concentrate, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. Together they are having a massive impact on the quality of his school and family life.
The primary school received a letter from the North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust in May of this year, stating they were unable to take any new referrals.
“I am unable to accept this referral as ADHD service is presently closed. We will keep a record of the referral so that if the service reopens we will offer [child’s name] an appointment,” the letter said.
According to NI-ADD, a Belfast-based organisation which helps parents and children deal with the effects of attention deficit disorders, ADHD is a condition that affects around five to nine per cent of school-age children here.
Co-ordinator Sarah Salters said in the past year they were contacted by over 500 people with enquiries.
“Now that’s just the concerned parents or individuals who know they have ADHD. There is a high number of people who don’t even know they have it,” said Sarah
The Department of Health does not have figures for how many children have been diagnosed with the disorder in the North of Ireland, but in England and Wales that figure is estimated at 40,000.
It is treated with drugs, like Ritalin for example, alongside other treatments such as counselling and behavioural therapy.
The North Belfast News asked the North and West Trust about the child’s treatment.
They informed us that a date of November 29 has been set for the child to see a specialist in a new ADHD pilot project working out of Townsend Street in West Belfast. But this date was incorrect and the Trust has now confirmed that the child will now be seen on February 7, 2006.
“The first group’s letters will be sent out on November 29 and the second batch, which this child is in, will receive their letters after Christmas. A date has set for this child for February 7.”
The spokeswoman added that ADHD is a complex problem which requires input from a wide range of professionals across a number of agencies.
“The Trust continues to work in partnership with child psychology at the Royal Victoria Hospital, educational psychology at the Belfast Education and Library Board and the Eastern Health and Social Services Board to further develop services.”

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

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