Ennis Autism Activist Accuses HSE Of Dragging Feet On Essential Children’s Disability Services

A volunteer with Ennis Voices for Autism is accusing HSE management of dragging their feet on essential disability services for children.

Figures released by the HSE have revealed that there are currently 524 children across the CHO3 region – which covers Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary – that are overdue an assessment of their needs.

This includes, but is not limited to, those on the autism spectrum and these assessments enable a child to be diagnosed and access the services they need.


In response, the HSE says its planning to roll out the National Policy on Access to Services for Children and Young People with Disability and Developmental Delay in 2020.

But Gearóid Mannion has been telling Clare FM’s James Mulhall says the long waits facing these children is having a serious impact on their health:

Statement From HSE

The HSE is planning to roll out the National Policy on Access to Services for Children & Young
People with Disability & Developmental Delay in 2020.

This policy is developed in the context of restructuring delivery of services as part of the ‘Progressing Disability Services for Children & Young People’ Programme(PDSCYP) which set outs to have:

– A clear pathway to services for all children according to need.

– Effective teams working in partnership with parents and service users.

– Resources used to the greatest benefit for all children and families.

Partnership between health and education to support children to achieve their potential. Since the commencement of Part 2 of the Disability Act in June 2007 the Health Service Executive has endeavoured to meet its legislative requirements as set out in the Act. Any child suspected of having a disability, born on or after June 1st 2002 is eligible to apply for an Assessment of Need that will detail his / her health needs arising from the disability. The Act does not define this assessment and the process is not standardised across the country. This lack of standardisation and clarity has contributed to significant delays in the Assessment of Need process. The HSE is aware of the numbers of children waiting for assessments and therapy services and is fully cognisant of the stress
this can cause to families.

To improve this process and ensure that children receive an intervention as soon as is possible, the HSE has developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the Assessment of Need process. The purpose of this procedure is to ensure children with disabilities and their families, access appropriate assessment and intervention as quickly as possible. In addition, this procedure will ensure that the approach to Assessment of Need is consistent across all areas. The new SOP is currently being introduced across the country. . It is intended that all applications for Assessment of Need (AON) in 2020 should receive their AON within the statutory timeframes.

In 2018 there were 1,163 and in 2019 1,220 ASD Assessments carried out under the Disability Act.
This represents approximately 35% of Assessments of Need. However, not all assessment for ASD are carried out under the Disability Act, as parents may access these services directly.

Please note that although we have experienced an increased demand for assessment of Autism, we cannot be
sure that this is a result of increased prevalence. It may be due to increased awareness of autism and specialist diagnoses coupled with a recognition for the need for earlier interventions.

Additional Therapy Resources for Children’s Disability Services NSP 2019 has provided for an additional 100 new therapy posts to be implemented by end 2019 with new development funding of €2.5m granted via NSP 2019 and with a full year investment cost rising to €6m in 2020.

This welcome new resource will result in additional new therapy posts ranging from Speech and Language Therapy, OT, Physio, Social Work, Psychology, Dietitians and Allied Health Professional Assistants. This new resource will impact on both assessment of need as well as support interventions for children with complex disability concerns.

The 100 new therapy grade posts have been allocated with discipline, grade and location now assigned in each case. Formal approval was received from Strategy and Planning on 17/5/2019 and confirmation to proceed with recruitment was sent from Community Operations to NRS on 15/07/2019. This was required to generate permissions for each CHO to progress recruitment. CHO areas are currently progressing recruitment in partnership with HBS Recruit and non-statutory employers. 99 of these posts are currently in place with a January start date agreed for the remaining post.

The above should be considered in light of previous investment secured by the HSE for therapeutic services which has been invested in the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People (0-18s) Programme (PDS). Since 2014, the roll out of the PDS has entailed targeted investment of €14m and the provision of 275 additional therapy staff, to increase services for children with all disabilities. The HSE and its funded provider partners, are currently implementing an ambitious reform of Children’s Disability Services throughout 2020.

The implementation of new Children’s Disability Networks throughout Ireland will provide inter-disciplinary services for all children with complex needs in their geographical area, including children and young people with Autism. These Networks will provide Interdisciplinary interventions and a clear structure for professionals to work together to provide integrated care. Together with Families, the members of the Team jointly develop and deliver a coherent plan which addresses the child’s individual needs in a holistic way and inclusive of therapies such as SLT, OT, Psychology, etc. This integrated person centred model is a key principle in Sláintecare, the National Policy for the Healthcare in Ireland. Further, it should also be noted that the HSE is also implementing recommendations arising from the Review of Irish Health Services for Autistic people.

This programme of capacity building and public awareness has a budget of €2m of new investment specific to the needs of this vulnerable group. The HSE welcomes the €2 million funding secured in Budget 2020 for the Autism Plan. In accordance with the National Service Plan, the additional funding secured will be used in a number of priority

To implement a programme of awareness raising that can provide a better information resource for children and parents about what supports are available;

-To deliver a campaign to assist in creating awareness of the challenges, needs and experiences of people with autism;

-To build capacity and competence amongst key professionals working with autism including a national training programme for clinicians and the implementation of a tiered model of assessment in order to improve access to and responses by services for those with ASD.