The HSE has been ordered by a High Court judge to complete an assessment of need for a child within the next eight weeks, while a number of cases in which parents are seeking to sue the HSE over delays in providing the assessment will return to court in March.
A number of parents have lodged applications in recent weeks to seek aggravated damages from the Health Service Executive, claiming that the delays in providing an assessment of need (AON) for their child has resulted in permanent loss.
An assessment of need allows children to be diagnosed and then apply for the resources they require in line with their disability.
The HSE is statutorily obliged to begin the AON within three months of the application, and it should then be completed within another three months, including the furnishing of all relevant reports regarding whatever resources would then be required for the child.
The repeated failure of the HSE to deliver within that timeframe has already seen a string of cases brought before the High Court this year, with Ms Justice Mary Faherty ordering the HSE to complete a number of outstanding AONs within six weeks, in a ruling delivered last May.
In the latest case, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan issued an Order of Mandamus compelling the HSE to conclude the Assessment of Need pursuant to the Disability Act, 2005, within eight weeks. Other cases in which parents are seeking damages have been listed for March 21 next year. Earlier this month, the latest such application was made, this time on behalf of three brothers.
The application, made by Feichin McDonagh SC and Brendan Hennessy BL for Rogers Law solicitors, claimed in the case of one of the children that he received a formal diagnosis of speech and language delay shortly after he turned five and that in the three years before a formal diagnosis, he had received around eight hours of speech therapy.
The application claims that due to this delay in diagnosis he was unable to get a place in a specialist autism playschool or autism unit school and that, since diagnosis, he has had no treatment other than a meeting with an autism liaison nurse one year after diagnosis.
It argues that there has been an “unjustifiable default in the discharge of a public duty” and that a delay of nine months in delivering the AON since the boy’s parents first sought it was “egregious in circumstances where the legislation states the assessment should commence within three months”.
It also claimed the administration of the statutory scheme is being carried out in “an arbitrary and unjust manner”.
Recent figures show 3,662 overdue AONs at the end of last October, 30% of which are in Cork and Kerry.