HSE proposals on how it would conduct Assessments Of Need (AON) for children have been deferred for a number of weeks after numerous objections.
The move is understood to have come after trade union Fórsa raised its concerns, adding to the objections voiced by the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), the Association of Occupational Therapists (AOTI), and others, who had claimed the changes might lead to misdiagnosis and other issues.
Solicitor Gareth Noble, who has represented families who sought a judicial review regarding the previous model of AON, tweeted: “HSE has deferred implementing new procedure for Children’s assessments of Need for ‘at least another four weeks’.”
A spokesperson for the PSI confirmed the move by the HSE.
Yesterday, Fórsa representative Christine Cully met with the HSE to discuss the matter.
A spokesman for the trade union said: “Fórsa was only made aware of the planned implementation of the time-restricted needs assessment model very shortly before it was due to commence.
"No consultation with the union had taken place before then, leaving little or no lead-in time.
“Chris raised objections to the commencement of the scheme on a number of grounds. These include issues around professional practise and concerns that health professionals were at risk of being forced to operate outside of their ethical guidelines.
“Above all, Fórsa’s concern is that the time-restricted needs assessment is not based on the individual needs of the child being assessed.
"A working group is now in place, composed of representatives from our vocational groups, and will look at the industrial relations issues arising, including capacity.”
There is no disruption to the assessment of needs service as the talks process continues and Fórsa said its members were continuing to provide a service under the original system, “which often involves working well outside contracted hours to do so”.
In recent weeks, the Irish Examiner has highlighted the concerns of the PSI, AOTI, and parents over the proposed changes, which the HSE intended to roll out from April 30.
One element of that plan which had caused particular concern was the proposed Preliminary Team Assessment (PTA) model, “to be completed in a maximum of 90 minutes, regardless of the child’s needs”.
The PSI said this screening model was contrary to the spirit of the Disability Act (2005) and that it was “a brief screening assessment only”, adding “its introduction will significantly reduce the level of assessment provided to a child”.
“Within such a short timeframe it is unlikely that a psychologist would be able to give an accurate indication of the nature or extent of the disability,” the PSI said.
“In many cases, it would not necessarily be clear whether or not the child has a disability.”
DCA Warriors, a parents representative community based initially around struggles by members to secure the monthly domiciliary care allowance, also criticised the proposals.
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