A High Court judge has directed that the HSE appears before him in December to address a “dramatic” surge in the number of court actions being taken by parents because of delays in assessing children with special needs.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan, who heads the Court’s judicial review list, said that usually just two to three new such cases come before the court per week.
But he said the “dramatic increase” now meant an average of seven new applications were coming before the court per week.
Judge Meenan said that while he was making a judgement as to who was responsible he was directing that the HSE appear before the court in December to address the issue, which he described as problematic.
In most of the cases before the court, parents are seeking to have the HSE’s assessment of their child’s needs reviewed by the courts.
They claim that their children who have special needs are being deprived of essential supports including speech and language therapy and educational services.
They have asked the courts to order the HSE to complete the assessments of their child’s needs within 6 weeks – claiming that the State body has failed to comply with its legal obligations under the 2005 Disability Act by failing to complete the assessments in a timely fashion.
Last year, the Ombudsman for Children’s Office raised concern about the high number of children waiting to be assessed.
“The Minister for Disability, Anne Rabbitte, recently revealed that there are nearly 4,000 children currently waiting for an Assessment of Need. That’s despite the introduction of the revised Standard Operation Procedure and other measures aimed at tackling the backlog,” the OCO report, Unmet Needs, said.
“We are still receiving complaints from parents of children who are waiting very long periods for an Assessment of Need and subsequently for the services they require. This is extremely distressing considering the fact that early intervention is vital to securing positive outcomes for children.
“One recent complaint we received on this issue was made on behalf of Callum*, who is six and has been awaiting a HSE multidisciplinary assessment for four years – since he was 28 months old. There are too many children like Callum who are waiting far too long for an assessment. The same children will have to wait again for the services they need,” the office said.