Some 6,058 children are currently overdue an assessment, with less than 10% of assessments being carried out within the statutory timeframe. Shutterstock/Pavel Lysenko
Children's Rights

Children with disabilities waiting years for assessment a violation of their rights, committee to be told

Over 6,000 children are currently overdue an assessment of their needs.

OVER 6,000 CHILDREN are currently overdue an assessment of their needs, according to Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon. 

Despite it being a legal requirement for the HSE to carry out an assessment of needs  within three months of receipt of a child’s application, some 6,058 children are currently overdue an assessment.

Less than 10% of assessments being carried out are within the statutory time-frame.

If a child has a disability or is suspected to have a disability, a parent or guardian can apply for an Assessment of Need (AON). The assessment will identify the child’s health needs an will also identify what services are required to meet the child’s needs.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration will today be told that there are “serious concerns about ongoing violations of the rights of children with disabilities”.

Muldoon will discuss a recent report, which sets out the challenges experienced by children who may have a disability and require an assessment of their needs.

Distraught parents 

Muldoon writes in the report of “many complaints from distraught parents whose children have been on a waiting list for years to access an assessment of need for their child”.

“Many have found that once their child is assessed, they struggle to get any or all of the services recommended to help their child talk, move, learn and grow,” he states.

  • ASSESSING AUTISM – Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to find out if a delay in getting a childhood diagnosis of ASD is fuelling a private industry. See how you can support this project here.

In his opening statement Muldoon will tell members today that every child with a disability in Ireland has the right, under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), to the highest level of health and education so as to fulfill their potential as human beings. 

The Ombudsman will tell the committee that the significant delay in carrying out the assessments could have an adverse impact on each child, highlighting a number of case studies listed in the report. 

Andrew’s story

One such story is Andrew, who has suspected Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

In March 2018, when Andrew was 18 months old, his mother applied for a needs assessment on his behalf. In August 2018, it was identified that he had a need for occupational therapy, speech and language therapy. His parents were also told that a psychological assessment was needed.

However, the HSE informed Andrew’s mother that her son would need to wait approximately one year to access a psychological assessment. She made a complaint to the HSE with respect to this delay.

She was told that her complaint would not be heard for approximately seven months.

As a result, she made a complaint to the Ombudsman regarding her son’s delayed access to a psychological assessment.

Due to a psychological report being a requirement for entry to an ASD specialist pre-school, Andrew’s mother informed the Ombudsman that a failure to complete Andrew’s psychological assessment in advance of his third birthday would impede his chances of being enrolled in a pre-school appropriate to his needs, which could in turn have an overall adverse effect on his long-term education.

Muldoon states that between 2017 and 2019, his office received 95 complaints from parents regarding their child’s access to a statutory assessment. 

“Children’s earliest years are the foundation for their physical and mental health, emotional security, cultural and personal identity, and developing competencies,” the Ombudsman says in his statement. 

Government action needed

He calls for a “whole of Government review of the access criteria for all services for which a diagnosis is still generally required, to ensure a clear pathway to services for all children according to need”. 

The committee will hear that significant investment is needed in this area, with a suggestion there will have to be a tenfold increase in expenditure in order for the State to meet its obligations.

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