Assessment of Need

An Assessment of Need (AON) is an assessment carried out by the Health Service Executive (HSE) for children or young people with a disability.

An AON identifies the child’s health needs and establishes what services are required to meet the child’s needs. Once carried out, the AON will contain the following information:

  • Whether the applicant has a disability.
  • The nature and extent of the disability.
  • A statement of the health and education needs of the applicant.
  • A statement of the services considered appropriate to meet the needs of the applicant and a period of time which would be appropriate for the services to be made available.
  • A time period within which a review should be carried out.

If the child is deemed to have a disability, he or she will then be provided with a Service Statement. This lists the services the HSE proposes to meet the child’s needs and must be completed within one month of the assessment report being completed.

The importance of having an AON and a Service Statement put into effect in a timely manner cannot be understated. Research shows that early diagnosis of and intervention for autism, for example, are more likely to have major long-term positive effects on symptoms and later skills.

Timeframes for AONs

The Disability Act 2005 provides that where a person (or a parent of a person) applies to the HSE for an AON, in relation to a specific need or particular service, that assessment must commence within three months of the date of the receipt of the application. The Act specifies that the AON must then be completed within three months of commencement. In short, once an application has been made, a statutory entitlement to have the Assessment of Need carried out within 6 months arises.

Standard Operating Procedure

In an attempt to shorten waiting lists and the backlog in assessments, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for assessment of need was implemented in January of 2020. The SOP introduced the Preliminary Team Assessment which replaced the comprehensive professional assessment process with a uniform screening session, reducing what once took 29 clinical hours to a 90-minute session.

Judicial review proceedings were brought against the HSE in March 2022 and challenged the SOP. In her judgement, Ms Justice Siobhán Phelan noted that the assessment “is integral to how the State discharges its duties to vindicate the rights of children with disabilities”. The Court found the SOP did not comply with the requirements set out in the Disability Act 2006 as it failed to provide a full and comprehensive assessment of the child’s needs, as is required under the Act. The HSE agreed to contact the parents of the 10,000 children who had their needs assessed under the SOP to establish if the wish to receive a further assessment. This has led to more children being placed on waiting lists.

Recent developments regarding schools and the Assessment of Need

A series of recent High Court and Court of Appeal cases have strengthened the right to a comprehensive Assessment of Need in Ireland. A recent judgement in the Court of Appeal ruled in October 2021 that the National Council for Special Education are to provide an assessment of a child’s education needs when requested by the HSE.

On foot of this, In October 2022 the National Council for Special Education circulated an information note to schools stating they are now responsible for nominating an appropriate person to carry out an assessment of education needs on behalf of the HSE under the AON process. The information note essentially advised schools that they are responsible for completing forms which will comprise part of the Report of Education Needs for the AON.

This circular was met with protests from the Irish National Teacher’s Organisation (INTO) on the grounds that they believed the State were using school support plans to replace the assessments which otherwise would have been undertaken by education psychologists. The roll out of the circular has since been paused and is being put in place in certain schools on a trial basis.

How can Lavelle Partners assist you in relation to an Assessment of Needs issue?

We have extensive experience in representing clients in respect of issues and complaints concerning assessment of need reports, service statements and access to services.

Recent articles

High Court Judge directs the Health Service Executive to appear before the Court over “dramatic” increase in cases involving delayed Assessments of Need

To speak to a solicitor regarding Assessment of Need, call Lavelle Partners on 01 644 5800.

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