August 5, 2021
Assessment of Needs replacement may leave families unable to access important educational resources and special needs assistants – Mark Ward TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health Mark Ward TD has expressed concern that the new standard operating procedure that is the replacement tool for the Assessment of Needs used to identify the physical and mental health needs of children could lead to parents being unable to access educational resources in schools and special needs assistants.

He warned it also could cause difficulties for parents claiming disability allowances.

Teachta Ward said:

“Recently the HSE moved from a comprehensive Assessment of Need diagnostic tool to using a desk top Standard Operating Procedure method to identify the health needs of a child.

“At the time of this change I challenged Minister Anne Rabbitte and said that this could be just a box ticking exercise aimed at fulfilling the Governments requirements under the disability act.

“The last interaction I had with the Minister was when I expressed my concerns about the lack of data coming out of the HSE to inform us if this is the case or if the standard operating procedure is working like the Government claimed it will.

“Recently I made representations on behalf of the parents of a child with disabilities to the HSE and I am really concerned with the response I received.

“The HSE stated that the new standard operating procedure that replaced the assessment of needs, does not provide a diagnostic assessment, and is solely focused on determining whether a child meets the criteria for disability service and identifying their health needs.

“On paper, the Government are fulfilling their obligations under the Disability Act, but children with disabilities and their parents could be left to suffer.

“A proper diagnostic work up takes time and resources which the Government have never properly provided to Assessment of Needs. That is why we have such unacceptably long waiting lists.

“My concerns are that no diagnosis could mean that parents can’t access educational resources in schools or special needs assistants for their children. It also could cause difficulties for parents claiming disability allowances .

“So many supports are dependent upon a diagnosis – autism specific classes, July provision Programme, resource teaching hours, assistive technology issues, reasonable accommodations for exams. The list is endless.

“I have written to Minister Anne Rabbitte and asked for assurances that the new standard operating procedure does not detrimentally impact the needs of children with disabilities and their parents.

“From what I can see, we now have an assessment to conclude that the child needs an assessment and that children are being moved from list to list without getting the intervention that they need.”

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