Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD and Minister of State with responsibility for Disability Anne Rabbitte TD have today announced a new Sláintecare initiative clearing the backlog for children’s Assessment of Needs, and supporting the roll-out of Children’s Disability Network Teams.

This measure is targeted to support children and families who are currently experiencing long waiting times for an Assessment of Need and it will also ensure that they are able to access follow up services quicker.

On taking office, both Ministers identified improved access to Assessment of Need as a joint priority.

Today there is approval for a €7.8 million package of measures to address the backlog of children and families waiting for assessments of need, built up over the last number of years, before the introduction of the revised standard operating procedure for Assessment of Need in January 2020.

Minister Donnelly said:

I have often highlighted the issue of unacceptable waiting times for children requiring assessments of need in the past. I have met many parents and guardians who have had to wait far too long for these services. This is something that I am extremely passionate about and I was determined to solve this problem as soon as possible. I hope that this package of measures will improve the lives of children with disabilities in Ireland. This is one of a number of actions that the government is taking as part of our commitment to universal healthcare. Ireland’s healthcare system must be world-class for all, from young to old.

Minister Rabbitte said:

I hope this announcement gives hope to families waiting for an assessment for their child.  Once we clear these backlogs, I expect HSE to meet its statutory obligations for all new referrals.

The work to clear the backlog will commence immediately in accordance with plans set out by individual HSE Community Health Organisation areas.

The €7.8m package will support a multifaceted approach, including:

•             Clinicians working overtime at weekends or evenings;

•             Filling posts currently vacant due to maternity leave;

•             Procurement of private assessments; and

•             Recruitment of additional Clinical Staff for fixed-term contracts where necessary

Progressing Children’s Disability Services aligns positively with the aims of Sláintecare and particularly in connection with the ambition to re-design care and enhance community care.  Removing the backlog will ensure that new structures for service delivery envisaged under the Network Team model of care will be a robust, effective, and sustainable model of service for children with disabilities in the future.

The Programme for Government contains a range of commitments to improve services for children with additional needs and guarantee the best outcomes for all children by prioritising early diagnosis, interventions, and access to services. 

The government recognises that a number of key policy initiatives are required to deliver on these commitments. Progress is underway to:

  • fully implement the new standard operating procedure for assessment of needs for all applications (commenced 15th January 2020). This new procedure provides a standardised approach to assessment across all areas.  The aim is to ensure that children with disabilities and their families can access appropriate assessment and intervention as quickly as possible.
  • complete the establishment of the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People (0- 18 years) Network Teams (due to be completed in quarter 4, 2020).


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