HSE: Majority of child assessments result in autism referral

October 3rd, 2018 7:10 AM

By Emma Connolly

The HSE hope they'll be able to tackle the waiting list of 1,500 children in Cork and Kerry who are overdue an assessment for a suspected disability.

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THE HSE hope they’ll be able to tackle the waiting list of 1,500 children in Cork and Kerry who are overdue an assessment for a suspected disability by ‘standardising’ the process. 

As reported in last week’s edition of The Southern Star, parents in West Cork are hugely angry and frustrated by lengthy delays in getting an Assessment of Need (AON) from the HSE so they can avail of educational supports such as SNAs. 

This area represents 40% of the country’s overall waiting list. Under the 2005 Disability Act, an AON examination must start within three months of application and be completed within a further three months. 

However, one Bandon mother had been waiting for nine months before she resorted to having her child assessed privately at her own cost.

A spokesperson for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said they recognise the long waiting times for clinical assessments and said the fact that 60% of applications they receive result in a referral for an Autism Spectrum Disorder assessment was posing  a ‘significant challenge.’

‘However, we are actively working to address this waiting time through a waiting list initiative,’ they said. ‘A procurement process is underway and the outcome of this process will allow us to plan further to address the wait lists in 2018 and 2019.’ 

The spokesperson continued: ‘Currently, there are 1,150 children awaiting at stage two of the AON process in Cork. These cases have been processed and are now waiting for clinical assessments to be completed. Approximately 1,000 of these cases have been referred for an Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment to the ASD assessment teams which are part of funded voluntary services.  On average 60% of the monthly AON applications received result in a referral for an ASD Assessment. This is a significant challenge in terms of our capacity to respond to this need.’

But the HSE says a ‘specific piece of work’ has commenced in an effort to address the current wait lists for ASD services in the region. ‘The HSE and the service providers are working collaboratively to look at standardising the ASD assessment process. Currently there are variations taken in the time to assess each child. Standardising the process should increase the numbers seen and  have a significant positive impact on the wait lists as we progress through 2018.’

Improving the waiting time for assessments was identified as a priority for 2018 by Cork Kerry Community Healthcare in this year’s Operational Plan. However, limited financial and staffing resources were listed as potential risks to delivering that. 

One mother, whose child has been through the system, said: ‘I can see why the Cork Kerry region accounts for 40% of the country’s waiting list.The reason parents want to remain anonymous in this is because if you raise your head above the parapet, it will be shot off.’ 

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