Data released by the HSE demonstrates widespread failure in the assessment of the needs of children with disabilities. This failure may come as no surprise to parents with experience of the system, but it marks a slippery slope and involves a breach of legal duty by the service provider.
Parents have the right to have their child’s disability needs assessed within three months of a completed application. Legislation exists to safeguard that right – namely, the 2005 Disability Act.
We now know that the HSE are systematically failing to uphold this legislation which came into being to put an end to such failings, as well as to vindicate the rights of all children in a modern Ireland. New data not only confirms this with the number of children on waiting lists leaping by 28% between the end of 2016 and May of this year. What’s more, of the 5,727 applications received last year, only 3,108 assessment reports were completed which is 210 fewer than in 2015 despite 89 fewer applications being received.
In West Wicklow/ Kildare 146 children were waiting more than 3 months for their needs to be assessed by a professional. The law is very clear. Within 3 months of a parent making an application, an assessment of their child’s needs must commence. Within a further 3 months the assessment must be completed. Frustrating as that process is for parents, there is logic to it – the support follows the need, and the need requires assessment.
Children are now waiting longer to have their needs assessed. This delay clearly breaches the Disability Act; more importantly, It compromises their development and quality of life.
Whatever the reason behind these disturbing delays, it simply must be identified and addressed. Administrative failures occur right across public services. That’s an ongoing battle. Children with needs cannot be allowed fall between the cracks.
If the problem here is lack of funding, funding will have to be found; if there’s a software deficiency, the systems need overhaul. The HSE and the department need to put their heads together and do so quickly.
There’s a problem and I’m calling on those paid to devise a solution to do so now for parents and children in our county.