AOTI Supports the Call for a High-Level Working Group to Address Lengthy Delays in Accessing Disability Services

This follows RTÉ highlighting the very long delays in children being provided with an Assessment of Need (AON) under the Disability Act 2005 and knock-on delays in accessing services such as Occupational Therapy

The Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland (AOTI) welcomes RTE highlighting on Morning Ireland today that more than 5,000 children are waiting longer than the law permits for an assessment of need before they can access vital services such as Occupational Therapy. Figures released to RTE show that the average waiting time for an assessment of need was 19 months in March 2020, despite a legal requirement for an assessment to be completed within 6 months. AOTI members’ experience is that children can be waiting much longer in some instances. Having received an assessment of need there are then further waiting lists to access the services of an Occupational Therapist and other health and social care services for children with identified needs.

Speaking about the importance of early assessment and intervention for children with additional needs, Caoilfhionn Ní Chuileannáin, Chairperson of the AOTI Paediatric Advisory Group, said “The 2019 report of the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee on Assessment of Need echoed AOTI’s position that there are societal and financial benefits of early intervention as well as positive outcomes for children with additional needs and their families.  Having the right input at an early stage is crucial to children reaching their potential and to family wellbeing and quality of life. Easier and timely access to an assessment of need, and follow-on services such as Occupational Therapy, is what children and families need. Delivering this should be everyone’s primary focus and priority”.

AOTI highlighted our concerns about the delays in the provision in assessments of need in our statement in April 2018. Following this statement, the Association was invited to make a presentation to the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee in June 2018. At that time, we identified 3 key problems in the current system of service delivery:

  1. Chronic under-resourcing and under-staffing of disability services leading to long waiting lists and missed developmental opportunities for children with additional needs
  2. Inequity of service delivery nationally as only 2 of 9 CHOs had been reconfigured in line with the Progressing Disabilities Services programme
  3. Fundamental problems with the Disability Act 2005 and the AON process emanating from it, e.g. legal entitlement to an assessment of need but not to services to meet identified needs

A copy of our statement made to the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee can be found here. AOTI proposed solutions to the above problems when we met with the Health Committee.  The outcome of this process was the publication by the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee of the Report on the New Standard Operating Procedure for Assessment of Need under the Disability Act 2005, which made several recommendations. One of these recommendations was that the HSE consult with front-line therapists and parents to discuss these matters further. Despite commitments given by HSE staff when they met with the Health Committee to have ongoing dialogue with stakeholders to address our collective concerns, this commitment has not been honoured. 

“AOTI strongly supports the call for a high-level review, made in the RTE report today by Prof Susan Smith of Deep End Ireland. Prof Smith called for the Government to set up a high-level working group to address the unlawful delays in the provision of assessments of need. We call on the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, to establish this working group as a matter of urgency so that assessment of children with additional needs and the provision of follow-on services such as Occupational Therapy can be achieved in a timely, safe, evidence-based and ethical way, said Odhrán Allen, AOTI Chief Strategy Officer.

Minister Donnelly was a member of the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee that produced the 2019 report.


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