Social Democrats TD for Wicklow, Jennifer Whitmore, has welcomed an indication from the Minister for Disabilities, Anne Rabbitte, that she would be open to a future review of the assessment of needs model.

Deputy Whitmore had called on the minister to suspend the roll-out of the new operating procedures under the assessment of needs model, which determines whether a child can be diagnosed with a disability under the 2005 Act, and therefore should be provided additional State supports and interventions. In response to Deputy Whitmore’s call at an Oireachtas Children’s Committee meeting, Minister Rabbitte confirmed that she would be open to reviewing the model in future once Department officials have fully briefed the committee members.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson for Children, said:

“It is clear from previous committee meetings on the issue that the current assessment of needs model is not fit for purpose and does not serve the best interests of children. We have heard from the parents of children waiting years for an assessment, only to get 90 minutes or less with child development professionals to determine their level of need.

“Many clinical professionals have stated to committee members the fact that the 90-minute limit goes against their own ethical practice and is not best practice within the profession.

“For these reasons, I called on Minister Rabbitte to suspend the roll-out of this model until a full consultation process has been carried out with parents and child development professionals and until adequate resources can be provided to meet the needs of over 6,000 children on the waiting list.

“I was encouraged by her response when the minister indicated that there is potential for a future review of the assessment of needs model. I will be asking that the committee formally invite Department officials who were around when this new model was implemented so we have the opportunity for all our questions to be addressed.

“I also welcome the fact that the minister acknowledged the lack of resources in the system and that the model, as it stands, is failing children. I made the point that if we are to get a child-centred system, the minister must address the key issues which clinical professionals, legal professionals and the Ombudsman for Children have outlined.

“I look forward to working with the minister and my committee colleagues on seeking a more child-centred system in relation to assessment of needs and to the future potential for a review of the new model.”

December 15, 2020

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