Health Committee review proposed assessment of need changes

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Recent media reports about the assessment of need process have shown that the minimum waiting time for an assessment of need is seven months can be almost two-and-a-half years in some cases. IN this context,  the Health Service Executive has proposed a new Standard Operating Procedure to address waiting times. Changes would include requiring the family of the child to submit a standard additional information form and from this form the assessment officer will then determine whether or not the child has a disability. I

Concerns were raised however, about the new procedure by parents and some professional groups. In response to these concerns, the Health Committee held two meetings in 2018 to hear about the issues.

The Health Committee have published a report on their findings and in that report, the chair of the committee Dr Michael Harty said that “at the heart of this issue is the fundamental problem of resources. The shortfall in staffing and other resources is injurious to the future health of children.”

The committee made a number of recommendations, including;

  • As early intervention is key to good outcomes the Government should allocate sufficient resources and HSE policy should reflect the importance of early intervention.
  • The form being used in the new procedure should be reconsidered to see if it adequately determines whether or not a child has a disability and it was also noted that the form itself is very complex. The committee recommended that the HSE consult with front-line therapists and parents to discuss the matter further.
  • The Committee recommended that the new Standard Operating Procedure is not brought into use before consultation with front-line therapists and parents.
  • Continuous discussions between the HSE, parents and front-line therapists was recommended with regard to the Assessment of Need process.
  • The establishment of a central database of Assessment of Need data which is accessible to all therapists, clinicians and administrators involved in AON was recommended.

The Committee also expressed its “grave concerns” regarding the current waiting lists on the Assessment of Need process and recommended changes including the reconfiguration of CHOs, the recruitment of additional therapists and the provision of adequate resources.