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Minister for Disabilities welcomes announcement of Mr Robbie Ryan as Chair of Review of the Standard Operating Procedure for Assessment of Need

Minister of State for Disabilities, Anne Rabbitte TD, has welcomed the appointment of Mr Robbie Ryan to Chair the Review of the Standard Operating Procedure for Assessment of Need for Children.


The Disability Act (2005) requires the HSE to provide an Assessment of Need for children and young people born on or after 1st June 2002 who are suspected of having a disability. In an effort to standardise procedures and facilitate timely assessments the HSE developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Assessment of Need. The HSE implemented the SOP for all applications from 15th January 2020. As part of implementing this new process, the HSE and the Fórsa Trade Union committed to an independently chaired joint review.


Minister Rabbitte said: “I am very aware that the Standard Operating Procedure has been widely discussed in various fora in recent months, with various stakeholders raising concerns around the new format for assessment so this review is very welcome.


“What we know is that the system in place prior to January 2020 needed fundamental change. It’s become clear to me that there are varying views on how it works, and this provides an excellent opportunity to assess how this new format of assessment is working on the ground, for children, families and for clinicians.


“There are clinical risks associated with the inability to provide interventions having completed very comprehensive and lengthy assessments. This new system balances the provision of shorter assessments accompanied by timely interventions.


“We all have the same goal in providing supports for all children with additional needs and the reform of the assessment process, along with other measures to increase access to interventions, will ensure that we can make sustainable progress in improving access to children’s disability services. The fundamental objective of this approach is to enable all children to reach their full potential. I look forward to the outcome of the review and any recommendations that may be put forward,” concluded Minister Rabbitte.




Notes for Editors:

The Terms of Reference for this review, which will be chaired by Mr Robbie Ryan, have now been agreed.  The review group will comprise five nominees from Fórsa and five from the HSE and will commence meetings in March 2021.


These nominees will represent a range of stakeholders including Assessment Officers, Children’s Disability Network Managers, Heads of Disability Services, National Clinical Programme for People with Disabilities, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Psychologists and Speech & Language Therapists.


The group will, over a 12-month period,


  • Examine the current SOP for Assessment of Need, in particular the issues arising with regards to the Preliminary Team Assessment.


  • Examine and quantify existing staff resources, both clinical and administrative, associated with meeting the requirements of Assessment of Need under the Disability Act (2005).  Identify any shortfalls and make recommendations for remedies.


  • Examine infrastructural resource requirements for the delivery of AON. e.g. non staff related resources such as IT supports, etc. Make any appropriate recommendations.


  • Evaluate the impact of the SOP for Assessment of Need.  This will include examination of Assessment of Need activity data with a particular focus on the numbers of assessments completed and compliance with statutory timeframes.


The Chairperson will issue interim reports after 3 months, 6 months and a final report after 12 months. The Chairperson may decide to invite submissions from any other party he considers relevant for the purposes of this review.  e.g. CORU, HIQA, professional bodies etc.


Additional Information

The current Government has provided substantial additional resources to improve Children’s Disability Services and this area remains a priority for Minister Rabbitte.


In August 2020 the HSE was provided with €7.8m through Sláintecare to address overdue Assessments of Need.


During the period from September to February 2020, each CHO area has done substantial work to address their overdue AONs in parallel to the on-going management of new applications for AON.


In addition, Budget 2021 provided for an additional 100 therapy posts to be added to Children’s Disability Network Teams this year.