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Written Answers - Services for People with Disabilities

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 465.  Deputy Anne Ferris Information on Anne Ferris Zoom on Anne Ferris  asked the Minister for Health Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly  the reason that children with disabilities are not being assessed within legal time limits; the actions he is taking to address the backlog of overdue assessments especially in the Dublin/Leinster region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23741/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 was commenced on 1 June 2007 in respect of children aged under 5. It had been intended to have both the Disability Act 2005 and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 fully implemented during 2010 in respect of children/young people between 5 and 18 years of age. In 2008, the then Government decided in the light of financial circumstances to defer further implementation of the Acts. Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, inter alia, provides for an assessment of the needs of eligible applicants occasioned by their disability to be commenced within three months of receipt of an application and completed within a further three months.

There has been a very significant rise in overall activity around the assessment process in recent years. The number of assessment reports completed rose to 3,043 in 2011 (an increase [487]of almost 25% on 2010). While any delay in assessment or intervention for any child is not desirable, the assessment process under the Disability Act does not have to take place in advance of intervention. The process can take place in parallel with any intervention which is identified as necessary. While the HSE faces a significant challenge in ensuring timely assessments, given the increasing demand and complexity of cases, it has put a range of measures in place to address this issue.

A major emphasis is being placed on reconfiguring disability services for children into geographically-based early-intervention and school-aged teams as part of the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme. €1 million in additional funding has been allocated in 2012 to help address the needs of children with autism and special needs. This is being focussed on addressing waiting times for specialist therapy services for children who have been diagnosed with autism and on developing early intervention teams. Targeted action plans have been put in place by the HSE in every region to address delays in assessments including: prioritising assessments, holding additional clinics, contracting the private sector to conduct assessments and reconfiguring resources to target areas of greatest need. These are monitored on a monthly basis by the HSE centrally.

The number of assessments overdue for completion nationally at the end of each quarter has fallen steadily since the third quarter of 2010. While there has been a fall of 25% nationally over this period, measures taken in the Dublin Mid Leinster region have seen a reduction of over 37% in overdue assessments in the same period. The Department and the HSE will continue to work together to develop more sustainable approaches within existing resources in this context.

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