12 year old advocate Cara Darmody urged the Taoiseach to address the issue of disability discrimination

A schoolgirl who is campaigning for better autism services has met the Taoiseach and told him he must fix the “terrible disabiiity discrimination” that is taking place.

Cara Darmody met in the Taoiseach’s Office, the second time the autism campaigner has been in the office since she met Micheál Martin in July last year.

Describing the meeting, she said Mr Varadkar “was really friendly and respectful to me.

“l told him that there was terrible disability discrimination going on and that he must try and fix it.

“I said that there were more than 17,000 children waiting just for first contact from the HSE and that it was a disgrace.”

She added: “I told him that I was calling our meeting The Rumble in the Concrete Jungle – Leo The Lion versus The Little Squirt.”

“He compared well to Micheal Martin – l think it was my charm.

The 12-year-old, whose campaign has already led her to address the Oireachtas and appear on the Late Late, wants the HSE to pay for the private assessment of children who are waiting more than three months to be assessed.

The girl, who is a school student, also requested that the government provide more funding for the services that are designed for people with autism.

Cara, has two brothers with autism, Neil, aged 10, and John, aged five.

“I do think that I’ve forced this issue to the point that they have to do something about the private assessments.

“Everyone now agrees that nobody should have to pay if the assessment is done by a properly validated psychologist.”

The HSE apologised to her parents Mark and Noelle in June 2022 for not having followed up on a request in 2020 by one of its own child psychiatrists that Neil’s autism was so severe that he needed to be reassessed “as a priority”.

Even then, the Darmody family had to source a private psychologist – who the HSE later paid for – because the waiting list for assessments was so long.

But even though she was highly qualified, the HSE would only accept the psychologist’s reassessment of Neil’s needs after the agency took seven months to validate her qualifications.

Cara said: “Leo Varadkar said he had no objection to paying for private assessments, that he knew it was going on around Ireland and that they needed to do something about it.”

The HSE has again apologised for the number of children with disabilities waiting for their first contact to access care.

The latest statistics, from March this year, show that more than 17,157 children are waiting for an initial contact with a Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT) in the nine community healthcare organisation (CHO) areas

In total, 10,696 children are waiting more than 12 months.

Source: Irish Examiner