Speech and language therapists criticise omission from Dáil committee meeting

The body which represents speech and language therapists has queried why it was not asked to address an Oireachtas committee meeting today on HSE plans to change assessment of need for children.

The efforts by the HSE to bring in a new standard operating procedure for assessments of need has been hit by problems and has been deferred following criticism by S&L therapists, psychologists, and the intervention of the trade union Fórsa.

Those groups have criticised elements of the proposed procedure, including a 90-minute screening of children, and this morning’s meeting of the joint committee on health will hear from the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland, the Psychological Society of Ireland, and online parents group the DCA Warriors, while the HSE will attend a meeting with the committee on the same subject afterwards.

However, the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists said it had not been invited and that this was “a serious matter”.

In a statement, chairperson Vickie Kirkpatrick said: “IASLT has been unable to ascertain a justification for this exclusion.

“Speech and language therapists should be attending the joint committee meeting on health as the majority of requests for team assessment under AON [assessment of need] involve speech and language therapists. SLTs hold expertise in assessment and management of speech, language, communication as well as feeding, eating and drinking disorders. The HSE adopted a rushed approach to develop the SOP [standard operating procedure]. It did not meaningfully consult with public or professional bodies.

“This absence of consultation breaches standards of best practice.”

The association first contacted the HSE in mid-May regarding its concerns over the proposed procedure and also notified the health and social care professional regulator Coru.

The occupational therapists group and the psychological society had raised concerns in April, since when the HSE invited the professional bodies to a meeting. A further meeting is planned but has yet to be scheduled, although the occupational therapists group said it hoped today’s committee meeting will lead to the identification of solutions.

Fórsa has also held a meeting with the HSE about the proposed changes to assessment of need, having stated it was only made aware of the planned time-restricted needs assessment model very shortly before it was due to commence and with “little or no lead-in time”.

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