Frustrating delays facing special kids
Parents of children with special needs are facing long delays to have the services they require assessed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in some parts of the country, new figures reveal.
Currently, all children with special needs under five years of age are entitled by law to have an independent examination carried out to determine what health or education services they should be provided with.
It may mean they are found to need services such as special education to deal with learning difficulties or speech and language therapy.
However, the HSE revealed that the number of applications overdue for completion at the end of January increased by 33, bringing the number up to 898.
The worst affected area was the Dublin/mid-Leinster region, where 70pc of the children on the list live.
By the end of February, 110 of these 898 assessments within Dublin/mid-Leinster had been addressed.
"A number of remedial actions are being pursued to target the large backlog of assessment reports that need to be cleared, including the use of private assessors," said the HSE.
Part of the delay is due to the Department of Education not sending on information in time but this is now being tackled.
Commenting on the revelations Deirdre Carroll, chief executive of Inclusion Ireland, which represents 160 organisations supporting people with an intellectual disability, said: "The HSE report highlights major issues with the assessment process. It mirrors reports of delays raised by Inclusion Ireland members.
"The lack of coordination between the HSE and the Department of Education is a cause of particular concern, showing assessments can be further delayed by administrative issues.
"For families, it can be very difficult having to wait for an assessment due to these delays. Also, issues remain around the availability of the resources, such as speech and language therapy and occupational therapy.
"We see situations where an assessment recommends a child get a certain amount of speech and language therapy hours to best develop. But in reality it is very difficult to actually ensure that the child receives those hours. This leaves families in an awful situation."
Ms Carroll, who was speaking in advance of the organisation's 50th anniversary annual meeting in Galway this weekend, also warned: "Concerns remain about the time taken on individual assessments of disability, which is reported as taking up to 29 hours per child -- a massive diversion of resources from actual interventions with children."
She pointed out that the assessments are still only available to children under five and not other age groups, despite promises.
"It had been planned that the assessment of need for children aged from five to 18 years would be fully rolled out in 2010 and that assessments for adults aged over 18 would occur in 2011.
"However, for financial reasons, it was announced in October 2008 that full roll-out of the Disability Act would be deferred indefinitely. This means children of school-going age and adults with disabilities are not entitled in law to an assessment of their needs."
The organisation wants to see Section 13 of the Disability Act implemented, which would see the HSE submitting a report every six months saying what type of service was recommended after assessment and what the child actually received.
It is essential that a system is in place to highlight the needs and shortfalls in services in order to plan for the future, she added.
Health & Living