July 30, 2020, RTE: Delay for special needs assessment too long – Varadkar https://www.rte.ie/news/2020/0730/1156380-thousands-of-children-waiting-for-autism-checks/ Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has acknowledged that children are waiting far too long to get an assessment of need. He was reacting to questions about figures obtained by RTÉ's Morning Ireland, showing over 5,000 children are waiting longer than the law permits to have needs such as autism formally assessed. Figures released by the Health Service Executive show that the average waiting time was 19 months, despite a legal requirement for the assessment to be completed within six months…. The Disability Act 2005 stipulates that these assessments must be completed within six months, but some children are forced to wait years. In the Dáil, Mr Varadkar acknowledged that the delay put a lot of stress on the children and their families and can be very expensive in the longer term because earlier intervention means better outcomes sooner. Mr Varadkar said it was a problem for a long time and one the Government wants to resolve. He also said parents of children with special needs should not have go to court to get services…. Mr Varadkar said the Government is committed to providing access to assessments and therapies for all children who require them…. Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty accused the State of consistently failing to live up to its legal requirements to ensure children can access assessments. He said nine out of ten children are being failed by the State and failed with their legal right. Mr Doherty said parents were at their "wits end" waiting for assessments for their children. He said it has become the default position of the State to force people into expensive legal battles instead of admitting they were wrong. 'To see your child stressed and upset and not being able to help them is just so hard' Stephanie Kavanagh has already been waiting a year for an assessment for her two-and-a-half-year-old son and said she has been told that due to Covid-19 she could be waiting another 18-34 months. … There were 5,083 overdue assessments at the end of March, less than 3% of which were because of exceptional circumstances. The CEO of the Children's Rights Alliance said she is very concerned at the figures and some children may not reach their full potential because of the gaps in accessing services. … Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Tanya Ward said the State should be directing its resources towards getting mass assessment for children and unlocking those services, adding that over €2bn [$3B U.S.] a year is spent on disability services. … She added: "What has happened is that this wait has often turned into a three-year wait or more." Dr Beug is with Deep End Ireland, a group of GPs in socio-economically deprived areas, and said the problem is particularly severe in communities of deprivation…. Private assessments, which are not necessarily recognised by the HSE and education bodies, can cost up to €1,800. [$2,700 U.S.]… "I feel ashamed to be a part of a health service that has to look at a parent in the eye, knowing that they have a seriously disabled child, and say you will have to wait four years before you get to the top of the queue," he said. Dr Beug said: "The bitterest irony of all is that this neglect of children is going to end up costing the State multiples of what it would cost to implement a proper early intervention system because if your first five years of school are catastrophic, you will never come back."… The doctors also highlight that the assessment of need is just the first step in accessing services, and most children end up back on further waiting lists. The Disability Act 2005 states that Assessments of Need must be commenced within three months of the date of application and completed within three months of the date of commencement. "I've come across hundreds of these cases and my experience is there are very few, if any, that have been completed within the timeframe permitted by law," said Gareth Noble, a child law solicitor with KOD Lyons…. The HSE said it has endeavoured to meet its legislative requirements and that it is introducing a range of service improvements. An additional 100 new therapy posts were provided in 2019 and 97 of these posts have already been appointed and the remaining posts are currently being recruited. The HSE has also developed a new standard operating procedure for Assessments of Need to "alleviate the current situation where children in some parts of the country may wait a number of years before they can access an assessment"…. Overdue assessments by area: CHO Area 1 (Donegal, Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan, Cavan/Monaghan): 149 overdue assessments, of which one was due to an "exceptional circumstance" CHO Area 2 (Galway, Roscommon, Mayo): 112 overdue assessments overdue, of which nine were due to an "exceptional circumstance" CHO Area 3 (Clare, Limerick, North Tipperary/East Limerick): 598 overdue assessments, of which 12 were due to an "exceptional circumstance" CHO Area 4 (Kerry, Cork): 879 overdue assessments, of which six were due to an "exceptional circumstance" CHO Area 5 (South Tipperary, Carlow/Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford): 468 overdue assessments, of which 13 were due to an "exceptional circumstance" CHO Area 6 (Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin South East): 217 overdue assessments, of which six were due to an "exceptional circumstance" CHO Area 7 (Kildare/West Wicklow, Dublin West, Dublin South City, Dublin South West): 751 overdue assessments, of which 4 were due to an "exceptional circumstance" CHO Area 8 (Laois/Offaly, Longford/Westmeath, Louth/Meath): 677 overdue assessments, of which 18 were due to an "exceptional circumstance" CHO Area 9 (Dublin North, Dublin North Central, Dublin North West): 1,232 overdue assessments, of which 77 were due to an "exceptional circumstance"