System of assessing needs of children under fire

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The HSE has been warned that concerns voiced by psychologists and therapists over a revamp of assessment of need for children have not gone away amid calls for fresh consultation on the issue.

The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), which has 3,000 members, also indicated that it would consider the possibility of joining forces with the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland (AOTI) and the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists (IASLT) in making a joint submission to the HSE on the issue.

An assessment of need (AON) allows children to be diagnosed and then apply for the resources they require in line with their disability.

Earlier this year, the HSE said it was going to introduce a new screening process or standard operating procedure, including a preliminary team assessment (PTA) model that would be completed in just 90 minutes.

The PSI issued a long and highly critical statement on the HSE’s plans, claiming they could lead to missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, which was later echoed by the AOTI who said that the new system could put its members in conflict with its own codes of ethics and that of the regulator, Coru

The HSE said it has implemented the new system as of April 30, but the professional representative bodies have said they were not fully consulted.

CEO of the PSI, Terri Morrissey, said the PSI sent fresh correspondence to the HSE on the issue in recent weeks and added: “The concerns have not gone away.

She said there might be further developments in the coming days including the possibility of a joint submission by the three groups to the HSE on the matter.

Another group that has voiced concerns over the new proposals is the DCA Warriors, an 18,000-member Facebook community that has been campaigning for better access to services for children.

Group spokeswoman Margaret Lennon said she has contacted the HSE to seek the full terms and conditions of the new standard operating procedure as it does not seem to be publicly available.

She also said the group had raised numerous concerns about the new system with members of the Oireachtas. She said the lack of consultation was a serious concern, as was the screening process which she said would increase stress for families already looking to secure the best services possible for their children.

They are removing parental rights to make informed choices for their children,” she said.

The DCA Warriors has asked a range of questions of the HSE with regard to the new standard operating procedures and said the same document has also been circulated to members of the Oireachtas.

The AON system which operated until April 30 has itself been the subject of judicial review after families claimed the HSE was not meeting its statutory requirements, namely that the AON commences within three months of the application, and that it then be completed within another three months, including the furnishing of all relevant reports regarding what resources would then be required for the child.

Ms Justice Mary Faherty last week ruled that in two cases the HSE must complete assessments of need on children for the families concerned within six weeks. Rulings in similar cases are due at the beginning of next month.

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