Exemplary damages sought by boy with autism over alleged delay by HSE to assess his needs

Exemplary damages sought by boy with autism over alleged delay by HSE to assess his needs

By Ann O'Loughlin

A High Court challenge where exemplary damages are sought has been brought against the HSE over an alleged "excessive delay" in the completion of an assessment of a four-year-old boy with special needs.

The court heard the ongoing delay in completing the child's assessment, which was first applied for over two years ago, has led to a delay in providing him with the supports and services he needs.

It is claimed that valuable time has been lost during which his needs could have been addressed, and it is feared that if the child does not get the appropriate resources his development could be permanently affected.

The action has been brought on behalf of the boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, by his mother.

The child, the court heard, has significant speech and language difficulties emotional issues, and attention and concentration problems, and has displayed many of the symptoms of autism.

Represented in the proceedings by Brendan Hennessy Bl, the High Court heard the child's mother submitted an application to have her son's needs assessed by the HSE in 2016.

Three months later the HSE incorrectly deemed the child not to have a disability and closed his application, counsel said.

After his mother pleaded with the HSE his application was reinstated, however, the child's assessment of need report was not completed until November 2017 some 14 months after it was first sought.

The child was diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder.

In February 2018 the boy's mother contacted the HSE's Early Intervention Team and was told it would be six months before her son could take up their services, counsel said.

Nine months later when the child's mother again contacted the team she was told it would be a further eight months before her son could be seen.

If the child does not receive an appropriate assessment and resources to meet the needs of his disability there is a serious risk his development may be permanently affected, counsel said.

Counsel said the child's mother could have made a formal complaint about the failure to provide her son with the services he needs.

However, she believes that going through the complaints procedure is futile given how long that process would take to complete.

Counsel said it is his client's case that the HSE has been guilty of undue and excessive delay in completing a proper and lawful assessment of need and service statement on the child in accordance with the statutory time frames.

In the action against the HSE, the child seeks damages, including aggravated damages for the breach of duty and the boy's rights, as well as an order compelling the HSE to complete an assessment of his needs.

The ongoing failure to provide these services amounts to a failure to respect the child's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, it is also claimed.

Permission to bring the action was granted, on an ex-parte basis, by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan. The case will come back before the court next week.

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