17. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health if the HSE’s waiting times for assessment of need for children will be addressed. (Question 6260/18 asked on 08 Feb 2018)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): The current Programme for Partnership Government commits to improving services and increasing supports for people with disabilities, particularly in the areas of early assessment and intervention for children with special needs.

Since the commencement of Part 2 of the Disability Act in June 2007 the HSE has endeavoured to meet its legislative requirements as set out in the Act. The number of applications received for assessment under the Act has increased each year since the Act was introduced in 2007.

The number of applications received in 2007 was 1,138 and this has risen steadily to 5,814 applications in 2017. Since the introduction of the Assessment of Need process a total of 43,521 completed applications were received by the HSE. In some complex cases, these statutory time-frames do not afford enough time to complete the necessary assessments. In addition, it is sometimes the case that an additional assessment is identified as necessary late in the process and it cannot be completed within the allotted time.

There have been significant year on year increases in the number of children applying for assessment which has led to delays in time frames and substantial work was undertaken in 2017 to address waiting times for Assessment of Need under the Disability Act (2005). All Community Healthcare Organisations have developed improvement plans to address areas of non-compliance with the statutory time frames and significant progress has been made in addressing waiting times for the commencement of the process. Additional resources have also been put in place in areas of particular difficulty.

In addition, a revised Standard Operating Procedure for Assessment of Need has been developed to ensure that there is a standardised approach to assessment across all areas. This procedure will be implemented from 1 April 2018. The procedure addresses the issue of eligibility for Assessment of Need and aligns this with the National Policy on Access to Services for Children and Young People with Disability and Developmental delay. The implementation of the Standard Operating Procedure for Assessment of Need is intended to support children with disabilities to access timely assessment and appropriate intervention.