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Autistic children 'don't lose out on DCA'

THE parents of a child with autism who are seeking the Domiciliary Care Allowance are not treated in a manner that would disadvantage their application for the payment, according to Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.

Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) is a monthly payment for a child aged under 16 with a severe disability, who requires ongoing care and attention, substantially over and above that usually required by a child of the same age. It is not means tested.

Ms Burton said statistics show that around 50pc of applications for the allowance are successful on assessment by a deciding officer, with a further 18pc awarded on appeal.

"In many cases applications are successful at appeal due to the provision of additional information or medical evidence on the care needs of the child, which was not available to the deciding officer at the earlier stage. The statistics show that there is no policy of a blanket refusal of initial applications," she said in a reply to Brendan Griffin TD.

Eligibility for the allowance is not based on the disability but on the level of additional care required by the child because of that disability.

Autistic spectrum disorder is treated in the same manner as any other disability or condition under the scheme. An assessment of applications processed over a two year period, indicated that while an overall average of 49pc of applications were approved at the assessment stage, some 55pc of applications in respect of children on the Autistic spectrum were awarded.

"This statistic would indicate that children with Autism are not treated in a manner that would disadvantage their application for the payment," he Minister said.

"The application form has been redesigned to allow the detail of the child's care needs to be more comprehensively documented by the parent/guardian," she added. "Also, an additional medical information form can be completed for children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders, such as Autism.

"This additional medical information, which will be supplied by the specialist attending the child, will ensure that the appropriate inform- ation is available during the decision making process," she added.

"It is hoped this allow the correct decision to be made at the earliest opportunityand reduce the need for recourse to the appeals process."

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