AsIAm has today welcomed the decision made by the Court of Appeal last week on a case involving the parents of an autistic child, who received an incomplete Assessment of Needs made by the HSE. This decision referred to the HSE’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which has been in place since 2020. The case concerned a child who was referred for an Assessment of Needs under the Disability Act 2005 following the HSE’s new SOP, operational since January 2020.
Under the HSE’s new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the HSE identified the child as having a disability but declined to diagnose the nature and extent of it, saying that the Disability Act 2005 did not require them to do so. Instead, the HSE referred the child for supports and services. The introduction of the SOP model has impacted thousands of families across the state by directly delaying the possibility of a diagnosis which in turn can lead to delays in accessing specific supports.
In her judgement, Ms Justice Whelan said:
“An assessment of need carried out pursuant to section 8 of the 2015 cannot be regarded as complete in the absence of a diagnostic assessment of the child’s disability unless in the reasonable opinion of the assessment officer such a diagnostic assessment is not required for the purposes of identifying the nature and extent of the disability and/or for the purpose of identifying the health and education needs (if any) occasioned to the person by the disability and the services considered appropriate to meet those needs and/or the period of time ideally required for the provision of those services and the order of such provision.”
AsIAm CEO Adam Harris commented on the decision:
“The Court of Appeal has today made a firm decision on the Standard Operations Procedure, a decision which we welcome. It was obvious from the inchoate days of this procedure it was not in keeping with the spirit of the Disability Act. The decision by the Court of Appeal is a reflection of the inadequacy of the HSE’s Standard Operating Procedure and how it placed children with additional needs into a very vulnerable position. More to the point: it was unlawful. Many families have been impacted by this Standard Operations Procedure with hundreds of families awaiting on delayed assessments for their child. We know from a recent Freedom of Information request to the HSE that as of Q2 of 2023, there were 6,495 Assessment of Needs overdue for completion, with 4 in 5 being overdue for more than 3 months. We also know from AsIAm’s Same Chance report that last year, more than half of families accessed their child’s Assessment privately”.
“The Joint Oireachtas Committees Final Report made several recommendations around the Assessment of Needs process such as better incentives for Occupational Therapists, Psychologists, Speech and Language Therapists to stay in the public sector, as well as rebalancing the distribution of resources between staff working on Assessments of Need and staff implementing therapeutic supports. We again call for the full implementation of this report”.