Prior to April 1 this year, the Health Service Executive (HSE) was responsible for administering the Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA), a monthly payment given to help carers of children with severe disability and in need of continuous care to fund therapies.
The Department of Social and Family Affairs (DSFA) took over administration of the scheme on April 1 and parents, advocacy groups and health professionals who work with autistic children claim the refusal rate among those applying for the DCA has increased significantly since then. The DCA is not means-tested and amounts to €309.50 per month.
The Irish Progressive Association for Autism (IPAA), also known as Shine Ireland, said they had been contacted by an increasing number of parents whose applications for the DCA had been turned down.
“Prior to this, I think I have dealt with just one refusal in 10 years,” said IPAA/Shine chief executive Kieran Kennedy.
Private speech and language therapist Vivienne Foley said there was anecdotal evidence to show criteria for awarding the allowance were being more stringently applied. The mother of one of her clients has two children with the same diagnosis; one child was awarded the DCA by the HSE, the second child has now been refused by the DSFA.
Figures from the DSFA show a refusal rate of six in 10 among applicants for the DCA (149 out of 249).
Of 100 allowances awarded, one in 10 were to children with autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome.
Fine Gael TDs Dave Stanton (Cork East) and Sean Barrett (Dun Laoghaire) have already raised the issue in the Dáil.
A statement from theDSFA said it “uses a set of consistent and objective guidelines in determining the medical eligibility of children for the scheme”. It said all claims are assessed by designated departmental medical assessors who have received special training in human disability evaluation.