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Social Democrats spokesperson for Children, Jennifer Whitmore TD, has called on the HSE to engage with child experts to put in place a child-centred Assessment of Needs process.

Deputy Whitmore was commenting on the findings of a survey carried out by the Psychological Society of Ireland of its members on the Assessment of Needs (AON) process. This is a new process which attempts to streamline the assessment of children for additional educational needs.

Preliminary Team Assessments (PTA) were established to carry out the new process, also known as the Standing Operating Procedure (OPA). The survey by the Psychological Society of Ireland, which was published today, reveals that 95% of its members believe the current model is not fit for purpose.

Deputy Whitmore said:

“The new model has been fraught with difficulties since it was introduced. The PTAs are expected to come up with a diagnosis in a very limited amount of time, leading to diagnosis that is not reflective of a child’s educational needs. As a result, many children have been left waiting years for an assessment and have regressed educationally during this time.

“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.

“Ultimately, the new procedure is not child-centred and I have raised this in my role as party spokesperson on many occasions, as well as through my membership of the Oireachtas Committee on Children. Child experts who were invited to speak at the committee expressed the view that the system is simply not in line with their ethics as practitioners. I am not surprised that they have called for the immediate cessation of this system until it is replaced with a new one that is fit-for-purpose.

“As the findings of the survey today show, it is imperative that the HSE immediately engages with child experts such as the Psychological Society of Ireland, the Association of Occupational Therapists and the Irish Association of Speech & Language Therapists with the aim of rolling out a new and improved Assessment of Needs system which is child-centred and ethically in line with practitioners’ expertise.

“I am also calling on the HSE to engage with parents of children who have been waiting years for an assessment and who have witnessed their children regress educationally as a result.”

February 15, 2021

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