A CORK TD has called for increased resources to reduce the waiting times for an Assessment of Need (AON) under the Disability Act 2005.
Fianna Fáil TD Pádraig O’Sullivan said that disability services in Cork and Kerry have been “significantly challenged in terms of the volume of applications for assessment over a number of years”.
He said that referrals for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) assessments in the region “are consistently among the highest in the country”.
“Currently, there are 1,005 children waiting at stage two of the AON process in Cork,” he said.
Those born on or after June 1, 2002 who are suspected of having a disability can apply for an AON under the Disability Act 2005.
Since June 1, 2018, a young person aged 16 or over can also apply for an assessment.
The Act allows for an assessment of the child’s health needs and consists of two stages, the first stage involves a review of the referral by an assessment officer and a referral to stage two will follow if appropriate, which is for a clinical assessment.
The assessment is carried out or arranged by Assessment Officers who are independent officers of the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The Cork North Central TD said: “A new National Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been introduced in relation to the assessment process.
“All applications received after January 15, 2020 will be referred to stage 2, if appropriate, for a Preliminary Team Assessment (PTA) in line with the SOP which will give a determination of a disability and outline recommendations for interventions.
“Disability services are currently implementing this SOP and it is expected that PTA assessments will commence shortly.
“The Department of Health announced in September that €7.8 million is being allocated nationally under a Sláintecare initiative to address the backlog of overdue assessments under Assessment of Need. €1.2 million of this is being allocated to Cork Kerry Community Healthcare,” he said.
Deputy O’Sullivan said, however, that his concern is that the new SOP “will only add another layer of bureaucracy to an already inefficient system”.
“I’m calling for more staff to be employed and more resources to be provided. This will have an actual and tangible effect on decreasing the waiting times,” Deputy O’Sullivan said.