Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Leave to Remain

Last Friday, Malik Amir Iqbal was one of several people across the country to be advised of the rejection of their appeals for leave to remain in the country. Mr. Iqbal has lived in direct provision for almost five years and in Longford town for several of those years. During that time, he has endeared himself to the local community and excelled in the arts through the medium of dance. Through the local Backstage Theatre, the Cruthú Arts Festival and many other local groups, this man has made countless friends. An extensive appeal in support of this affable man's application for a right to remain with us represents easily the most comprehensive case I have seen submitted on behalf of anyone in support of a right to remain in the country. It includes letters of support from high-profile names such as that of the actor Stephen Rea but also, perhaps more importantly, letters from local people such as our county librarian, Mary Carleton-Reynolds, and our local priest, Fr. James McKiernan. All of these letters show beyond any shred of doubt that this man has become an intrinsic part of the local community in Longford and of the national arts scene.

Mr. Iqbal is a popular dancer who has featured on the stage of the Abbey Theatre with his good friend, Vicky Khokhar, a fully trained and qualified emergency room nurse who, like Mr. Iqbal, lived in direct provision for several years. It is ironic that the two men were part of a dance troupe on our national stage literally hours before Mr. Khokhar voluntarily left the country under the threat of deportation. There are so many people who do not want Mr. Iqbal to face a similar fate. When are we going to stop forcing good people who want to contribute positively to our society to leave our country?

It does not seem right that Mr. Iqbal has waited 19 months for a decision on his appeal to then be given only five days to leave the country at the height of a pandemic. Perhaps there is a legal requirement that explains why the notifications had to issue last Friday but I appeal to the Minister of State to intervene and to defer the matter for further consideration, certainly until such time as the extensive case in support of Mr. Iqbal has been fully assessed.

I thank Deputy Flaherty for raising this very important matter, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister, Deputy McEntee. I know that it has been a cause of concern and that some Deputies have contacted the Minister directly over recent days to express that concern.

Our objective is to have decisions made on international protection applications and permission to remain considerations as quickly as possible. This ensures that those who are found to be in need of our protection can receive it quickly and begin rebuilding their lives here with a sense of safety and security. For those found not to be in need of protection, we can offer them assistance to return to their home country. This objective of timely decision making is shared by the expert group led by Dr. Catherine Day, whose report the Ministers, Deputies O'Gorman and McEntee, published very recently.

During the early stages of the pandemic, it was decided to issue positive recommendations from the International Protection Office only. This was to ensure that applicants with negative recommendations were not disadvantaged by the time limits set out in the legislation within which to make an appeal or to request a review of a refusal of permission to remain. As substantive processing and appeal hearings recommenced in more recent months, so too did the issuing of negative decisions. While the number of negative decisions has not increased, there has been a build-up in the issuing of such decisions, with a higher volume than normal issuing in recent weeks.

The letters referred to by the Deputy inform people of their negative international protection decision and that they no longer have permission to remain in the State. Such persons are required to confirm within five days if they will accept the option of voluntary return, for which my Department provides assistance. If they do not confirm that they will leave voluntarily, a deportation order is made against them. The five-day timeline is set down in primary legislation and so must be adhered to in official correspondence. However, I understand a pragmatic approach is taken and, to be clear, the person is not required to remove themselves from the State within five days; they are required to indicate an intent to do so. Obviously, the time taken for relevant voluntary return arrangements to be made will take into account all factors, including Covid restrictions and the limitations to travel these have created. That said, I do accept that particular issues arise with level 5 restrictions and that the letters may have inadvertently caused distress. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, has asked her officials to review the process of issuing such letters for its duration.

I might add that Dr. Day's expert group has recommended that the five-day period for deciding whether to accept voluntary return should be extended to 30 days and that children and students should be allowed to finish the school year before departure. These, along with all other recommendations relevant to the work of the Department of Justice, will be actively considered by a programme board established for this purpose. This board's work will feed into the development of the White Paper by the end of this year, in line with the programme for Government commitment.

While I obviously cannot speak to the specific case the Deputy has raised, I will bring his comments to the attention of the Minister.

I thank the Minister of State for his detailed response. I certainly hope the Department will move to issue a simple assurance that no deportations will occur during the Covid pandemic. At the very least we would ask that no deportation orders be issued and, ideally, that leave to remain be granted in the case of Mr. Iqbal, which I outlined earlier. I also ask that consideration be given to the many healthcare workers who received similar notifications last Friday, many of whom have been in direct provision for more than two years.

I was glad to hear the Minister of State refer to the expert group under Dr. Catherine Day. I understand that a key recommendation in its report on direct provision is that anybody who has been in the system for more than two years should be given leave to remain in the country. I ask that the Department at least deliberate on the findings of this report before adjudicating on the status of Mr. Iqbal and others who were issued similar notifications last week.

I again thank Deputy Flaherty for his contribution. I hear his passion for this very important issue.

For those found not to be in need of international protection, full consideration of all aspects of their case is carried out before a decision is made to grant permission to remain in the State or to make a deportation order. This includes full consideration of their private and family rights in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights as well as consideration of their work position and other issues. Each case is examined in detail on its individual merits, taking all factors into account. Additionally, section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, allows an order to be amended or revoked by making a request to the Minister for Justice.

I fully acknowledge the important contribution that migrants have made to health, social care and other essential services during the pandemic and beyond. I encourage people to be as detailed as possible in their representations to the Department of Justice so we can make fully informed decisions at the appropriate time.

Whereas the execution of a deportation order is a matter for An Garda Síochána, I assure Deputy Flaherty and the House that the Department of Justice will of course take a pragmatic approach to such matters in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Community Development Initiatives

I welcome the Minister to the House tonight as it is a sign that she is giving this very important matter the recognition it deserves. I will speak to the future of the Tidy Towns competition. I submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister on 17 September asking if the Tidy Towns competition would be allowed to proceed in 2021 under the current social distancing and public health guidelines.

The Minister replied by saying the Tidy Towns competition has a unique place in Ireland's culture and since its inception in 1958, when it had 52 entrants, the competition has grown year on year to see a record number of 924 entrants in 2019. Unfortunately, the 2020 SuperValu Tidy Towns competition had to be cancelled this year on public health grounds due to Covid-19. The work of the Tidy Towns committees is built on communities coming together and working together; in the position we found ourselves in this year, it would not have been possible for committees around the country to deliver their projects in the usual way.

The Minister acknowledges the importance of the competition. There are many committees throughout the country that want to continue if they can adhere to public health guidelines. They are seeking some solace from the Minister and the public health guidelines interpretation that there will be a competition next year. They are seeking the goodwill of the Government and the Minister so she might seek to do her very best to ensure the competition proceeds next year because of the importance of the competition. That is self-evident but if the committees had some words of comfort or a view on how the competition might proceed in 2021, it would give people a great lift in these times.

We know the character of the volunteers involved with the Tidy Towns competition and that there are many people who are semi-retired or retired who work on it. It is a competition that encourages young and older people to be involved. They just want some guidance and direction from the Minister. If it is in the affirmative, they would welcome such comment. Will the Minister work with the Tidy Towns competition in a way that will allow it to proceed in 2021? It would be a positive step on the part of the Government and for each of the committees involved.

I thank Deputy Sherlock for raising this matter. First, I say very clearly tonight that it is absolutely my intention that we will have a Tidy Towns competition in 2021. The SuperValu Tidy Towns has been in existence since 1958, as Deputy Sherlock notes, and it has become an integral part of our culture over the intervening years. The competition continues to grow in popularity and in 2019, a record 924 entries were received. The competition was just ready to be launched earlier this year when Covid-19 arrived. Unfortunately, like many other events that we hold dear, the competition did not proceed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

This decision was taken in line with public health advice and in collaboration with the competition sponsor, SuperValu. This decision was made in April during the first period of severe restrictions, when essentially the advice to everybody was to stay at home. Many of our Tidy Towns volunteers and adjudicators were very limited in what they could do earlier in the year. However, as we have moved through different stages of living alongside the pandemic, the Tidy Towns volunteers have demonstrated that they can continue to do some of their activities while still following all of the necessary public health precautions.

My Department is in regular contact with the close to 1,000 Tidy Towns groups around the country and we are hearing of some wonderful projects and community-wide initiatives that have been delivered in recent months. Indeed, many of our Tidy Towns groups have also been instrumental in assisting with the community response to Covid-19. Many of the projects being delivered this year feature in the monthly Tidy Towns newsletter that the groups themselves contribute to and which my Department issues through our social media channels.

The interest in the newsletter demonstrates how popular the competition continues to be and the level of work that continues, even in the absence of a formal competition this year. As we look forward to next year, I assure the Deputy and the House that there will be a Tidy Towns competition in 2021. We may need to alter and adapt our approach to delivering the competition next year given the on-going constraints posed by Covid-19 but we can retain the ethos of the competition that has stood the test of time so well.

My Department is currently considering the format the competition could take next year, having regard to restrictions on gatherings at each of the five levels of the Government's Plan for Living with Covid-19 and the paramount need to protect the health and well-being of volunteers and adjudicators. The details of any changes in the competition will be shared with the Tidy Towns groups well in advance. I assure the Tidy Towns groups and the thousands of volunteers that my Department and the Government is absolutely committed to the Tidy Towns competition and we look forward to encouraging more towns and villages to join us in future years.

I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and it was worth staying up this late just to hear such an assertive and affirmative reply from the Minister. There is no ambiguity from the Minister about the future of the competition in 2021 and the more than 924 applicants that will be there will be delighted with the news. It is a very genuine competition and the people involved are the salt of the Earth. They do so much for their community and it is such a valuable competition. I acknowledge the role of SuperValu in the sponsorship in brings along with the State intervention. Its impact is enormous and in the midst of Covid-19, the social value of this competition is highlighted even more.

This is a very positive response from the Minister and all the volunteers will be delighted. It will lead to yet further enhancement of our communities across the State and I sincerely welcome the Minister's reply. I welcome the fact that it was so unambiguous and direct. On this night of the US election, it is worth getting an answer like that at 11.50 p.m. It is rare that one gets a positive answer when putting down a Topical Issue coming up to midnight. This is a very positive response and I thank the Minister sincerely for it.

I also recognise the great work of our Tidy Towns committees. I am a little biased because Glaslough in my county won the 2019 Tidy Towns competition. I know, therefore, how much this means and the sense of pride which it brings to the local community. I have also attended many events where prizes were given out and it was great to meet people from every organisation across the country. I met the finalists at those events and had a chat with them all. They do magnificent work.

We were in a different place last March when Covid-19 stuck, compared with where we are now. We are now learning to operate and live alongside the virus. The vast majority of the work our Tidy Towns volunteers carry out, and which makes a significant difference to our local towns and villages, can be done in a socially distanced way. As with everything related to Covid-19, there will always be some challenges, but I believe these can be overcome.

Let us look at what others have done. I never thought I would see Monaghan play Cavan in the first round of the Ulster championship in front of an empty St. Tiernach's Park in Clones, but that is exactly what happened last weekend. Cavan did beat us, but nevertheless it shows what can be possible when there is a will. I assure the Deputy, therefore, that the will is there on my part to ensure the Tidy Towns competition happens next year. That is what we want to see, and we will consult Tidy Towns groups and organisations because they will come up with their own solutions and good ideas. We will consult with those groups because we want to make that happen.

One-Parent Family Payment

I look forward to the Minister being as positive in response to my query as she was to the previous one.

I thank her for taking time out of a long and busy day to be here so late to deal with this issue. I will start by introducing her to a woman I know. Her name is Kirsty. She has been a foster parent for more than 13 years. She, and her then partner, started fostering, and they were a regular family, with employment and a home. As with many people, however, life intervened and Kirsty is now a single parent. In those 13 years, she has fostered more than ten children. Her eldest, who is 15-years old this year, has been with her since the child was a young baby. Kirsty has, however, also fostered children for shorter periods, emergency stays and mid-length stays. In doing that, she has made an enormous contribution to the lives of children who, for a variety of reasons, may not have had the opportunities to succeed in and flourish in life as they now do. She has also made an enormous contribution to the State because otherwise those children would have ended up in State care at a much greater cost to the taxpayers. The nature of some of our State care facilities also means that experience would have been at a much greater cost to the children themselves.

By all accounts, Kirsty is an exceptional mother, absolutely dedicated to the children she loves, rears and cares for. The problem, however, is that she is a single parent. From what I can see, she is in the only category of single parents not eligible under the existing legislation for either the one-parent family payment, OFP, or transitional jobseeker's allowance. That creates an enormous anomaly. A payment does come from Tusla to cover the specific costs of the child. It is a non-means tested payment, paid to all foster parents regardless of income.

Kirsty now finds herself out of work, however. Tusla wants her to continue to foster children, and during the Covid-19 pandemic, it even wanted her to take on additional fostering responsibilities because the organisation was trying to alleviate some of the pressure in care homes. At the same time, though, officials in the Department of Social Protection are doing their job. Kirsty is eligible for a jobseeker's payment and, therefore, the officials want her to apply for employment, engage with Seetec and do a range of things not compatible with a single parent to do under that payment.

I know what the official response of the Department will be because the Minister's predecessor gave it to me in 2018. I also received the same word-for-word reply from her and her officials in September. When the legislation was originally drafted, it included a list of categories of single-person households eligible for one-parent family and transitional jobseeker's payments. Foster parents were not included. I suspect that was because when that legislation was being drafted there was just a general assumption that foster parents were two-parent households. It was, therefore, an omission or an oversight in that original legislation. I cannot imagine any real reason foster parents would be treated differently from widows, widowers, guardians, etc.

We can do two things now. The Minister can read the same response I received twice previously, and the small number of people I suspect are in the same position as Kirsty will be stuck in this bind. Their choices are to return these children to care, which is not something anybody in this House would support, or to go without means. That is the position in which the State is putting Kirsty. I am not asking the Minister to change the law in this Topical Issue debate. I am not even asking her to commit to changing the law. I am just stating there is a compelling reason for the Minister, instead of giving us the stock response, to ask her officials to review this situation to see if there are legitimate grounds for considering legislative reform, perhaps in a future social welfare Bill or similar legislation.

We just had a valuable discussion regarding the Tidy Towns competition and the volunteers who do enormous work for their communities. My mother and father were foster parents. My youngest sister had been with us since she was two. She is now a schoolteacher in Africa, has her own family and is incredibly successful in her own way. I know from first-hand experience, therefore, the transformational impact of fostering. Let us not continue to discriminate against single-parent foster parent households. Let us find a way to fix this issue.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter and for the opportunity to outline the current arrangements in place regarding foster parents and the one-parent family payment. It is important to recognise the significant contribution that foster parents make. I know foster parents myself and the Deputy is correct that they carry out a valuable role. He has shared Kirsty's story with us, and I am sure there are more people like her out there. Many of them are probably not one-parent families, however, and that is fair enough.

I have a prepared answer and the Deputy can read it at his leisure. The main point is that Tusla provides supports to foster parents. Those payments are made directly to the foster parents, and the social welfare system seeks to provide supports more generally. As the Deputy will be aware, social welfare legislation provides for the payment of an increase for a qualified child on certain primary social welfare payments. It is possible, therefore, for foster parents to get the one-parent family payment if they have children of their own, but they will not get the payment if they only have foster children.

We are probably not talking about a great number of people in that situation but the foster care allowance is currently €325 per week for children under the age of 12 and €350 per week for children over 12. This compares with a one-parent family payment for children aged under seven of €239 per week, and a weekly jobseeker's transition payment of €239 in the case of a child under 12 or €243 in the case of a child over 12. There is an enhanced payment in the respect. Where a child has been placed in foster care by Tusla, and the child has been in continuous care of the foster parents for six months, child benefit would then transfer to the foster parent. Tusla also provides a range of other supports to foster parents to help and support them in the invaluable work they do.

The Deputy asked whether I will consider it and ask my officials to review it, which I will do. I think that is a fair request and I am happy to get them to reconsider the issue. I am happy to engage with him on it.

This is an issue where, with a bit of common sense and goodwill, we can make a difference to people's lives. Someone like Kirsty today can legitimately claim jobseeker's allowance because she has no full-time employment. She is in receipt of jobseeker's allowance and the State pays that in recognition of the fact that she has no means. The foster care allowance is not a payment to provide an income support to the parent; it is to provide for the costs of fostering the child in recognition of the work that has to be done.

Rather than forcing people like Kirsty to claim jobseeker's allowance and to have to be in potential conflict with their Intreo worker or Seetec adviser, we should acknowledge that there are a small number of single-parent households who are foster parents, and in the same way as any other household that is a single-parent family, allow them to access the one-parent family payment or, crucially, a transitional jobseeker's allowance. Kirsty would love to work part time if she could get it, but the work has to fit around her caring responsibilities for her nine-year-old and her 15-year-old foster child. Transitional jobseeker's allowance, therefore, is eminently more sensible. This is not about the State saying these people are not deserving of an income support. They are already getting jobseeker's allowance, but that income support does not suit their specific needs as foster parents.

I welcome the Minister's commitment to considering the issue. If she takes it in the spirit I propose, this is simply about allowing people to do what they do very well, without being in conflict with one or other section of our social welfare, or care, system.

My understanding is there is a severe need for more foster parents. There may be people who, because of circumstances, could take up that role on a short, medium or long-term basis. This could also assist Tusla and another arm of Government to ensure that some of the most vulnerable children in society will get the start in life they so much deserve. I look forward to engaging with the Minister on this into the future.

It is fair to say that in the case of foster care arrangements, the legal responsibility for the child remains with Tusla, although I reiterate I am happy to engage with the Deputy on this matter. It is important that we encourage as many people as we can to foster children because they provide a great service to the State. While Tusla supports them financially, I do not see any reason we cannot examine this, and I am happy to work with the Deputy in that regard.

Speech and Language Therapy

The Minister of State might recall a few weeks ago when we debated the cross-party disability motion that I mentioned this issue, but I raise it again today because there is a serious problem with assessments in general in Carlow-Kilkenny. It relates specifically to appointments for speech and language therapy, although there are also issues with occupational therapy.

Speech and language therapy assessments are separated into two categories. Currently, 929 children in Carlow-Kilkenny are awaiting an appointment for speech and language therapy, while there are 137 children on the list who are classified in the disability category. That is more than 1,000 children waiting just for an appointment for speech and language therapy. In the past week, I happened to receive responses to two parliamentary questions I had tabled about two specific cases relating to occupational therapy and speech and language therapy. Both responses predicted that the appointments would be made in October 2021. This is for children who have spent approximately a year on the waiting list, and given that November has just begun, that is almost a full year away. It is heartbreaking to have to go back to parents with that information. There are so many people who cannot afford to access private services and it is just not an option. They are watching their children's condition deteriorate. Particularly in a child's first few years of school, it is crucial as he or she can be set back so many years. The difference that a number of appointments with a speech and language therapist could make is invaluable.

I was surprised that the numbers are as high as they are, even though I knew from people having contacted me that there was an issue. While it is a number of more than 1,000 on a page, that is more than 1,000 children who are suffering as a result. Some have waited 12 months for an assessment and then it turns out to be a wait of two and a half years for therapy. This will have a detrimental effect on them. I urge the Minister of State to examine the circumstances, especially in Carlow-Kilkenny, of the assessment waiting time for speech and language therapy. Something needs to be done. There are six speech and language therapists and five occupational therapists in Kilkenny, and they cover two large counties, with a rural and urban mix. It is not doable and more therapists need to be put in place. While some people will say it is because of Covid-19, this was an issue before that, as the Minister of State will be aware, because she was active on this issue when she was on this side of the House. It is great that she is in that junior Ministry and I hope she will take this on board. I acknowledge she has committed additional moneys, but there is an issue and the only way to resolve it is by recruiting more speech and language therapists and occupational therapists to deal with the assessments and appointments.

I thank the Deputy for raising this very important issue. It is not the first time that community healthcare organisation, CHO, 5 has been mentioned by her or her colleagues. The HSE and its funded disability partners will continue to provide therapeutic supports in line with the public health guidance and direction while also bearing in mind the availability of staffing resources. Some south-east community healthcare staff members, including speech and language therapists, were redeployed to the swabbing centres in line with the national priority.

The HSE is, however, currently engaged in a recruitment campaign for staff to support community testing facilities for Covid-19. The recruitment of these roles will support the return of staff who have been temporarily seconded to swabbing centres and contact tracing centres to return to their substantive roles. In the south east, the first group of swabbing staff commenced on 15 October and are currently being trained, which will facilitate therapists returning to their substantive roles. In addition, Covid-19 restrictions have impacted on speech and language therapy service provision in recent months. This service is working towards a full service resumption by ensuring that the appropriate measures are in place to guarantee safe service delivery to both clients and staff. Speech and language therapists continue to work with service users and their families remotely and to use technology in effective ways. In resuming services, guidelines on social distancing and infection control must be observed. Routine services have recommenced in recent weeks but at reduced capacity to comply with Covid-19 measures. This, unfortunately, has impacted on waiting times in each service.

South-east community healthcare staff fully understand the frustration of parents and acknowledge the concerns for prompt, continuous assessment of speech and language therapy intervention. They are hopeful, as am I, that services will fully resume at the earliest opportunity. In addition to the issues outlined, it is acknowledged that given increased referral rates and demand for assessment and intervention, there is a requirement for additional resources to meet the current need in each area of speech and language therapy provision. The Deputy mentioned the additional funding. Some €7.8 million has been allocated for assessments of need. While some 643 children in CHO 5 are waiting for an assessment, none of the network disability teams in that CHO is involved in swabbing.

All staff in those teams are in their posts. I spoke with Janette Dwyer of the HSE prior to taking the question this evening. I have asked that the HSE make it a priority in CHO 5 to follow what it has already done in respect to the network disability teams and prioritise the primary care team. Many of the staff referred to by Deputy Funchion working in primary care with those aged between six and 18 years as well as those in the early intervention team are actually out of primary care. That does not fall under my remit. This is not a case of me washing my hands of the matter. I spoke to the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, earlier to get his support for having the primary care team focus on returning our clinicians. This work is now deemed an essential service on the disability side. This is what I have received. Under level 5, my primary care members of staff will return to their posts in early intervention in speech and language.

I welcome that. It is important that essential therapists and clinicians are not used for contract tracing or swabbing. That is not to diminish Covid-19 and the seriousness of it. I understand why there was something of a panic at the start of the pandemic. Now, however, we are well into the pandemic and we can no longer use it as an excuse.

The Minister of State has acknowledged that she wants staff to operate in their correct roles. That is very important. We already had a problem with waiting lists and waiting times for assessments for various therapies. We cannot have that problem compounded by Covid-19 but we cannot use Covid as a scapegoat either. It is very important that the issue is addressed. I understand what the Minister of State is saying but I appeal to her nevertheless. The therapists are doing their absolute best. It is difficult when they see a never-ending waiting list. They know there are large numbers of children waiting and they want to be able to help. They know they have the skills to help but they are hampered because there are not enough therapists. It is important that we have recruitment of speech and language therapists and occupational therapists so that we do not have these waiting lists.

I am dealing with several cases involving children who will wait until October 2021. We simply cannot have that for children. They will fall way behind in school and in their development. Eventually, it will have a major effect on their confidence and mental health, especially around speech and language. It is crucial that school-aged children and those about to start school get these interventions. We always talk about early intervention. We all know how important it is and how much of a difference it makes. It is important that we put this into action and have the required number of therapists. I welcome that the Minister of State will look into this specifically for Carlow and Kilkenny because it is an important issue.

Deputy Funchion is right about therapists. Budget 2021 included a commitment to recruit an additional 100 therapists. That number will include speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. I want to have fully staffed children network disability teams, of which there will be 91 throughout the country. However, there is no point in having leads if we do not have the therapists in place to make the interventions.

Another aspect of this relates to the figures. A total of 382 children are waiting for an assessment of needs. I can elaborate on assessments of needs following my conversation earlier with Ms Dwyer in CHO 5. They will be completed by the end of April at the latest. The intervention will follow for those 382 children and the other families who are waiting. The intervention will follow straight away for families who have received letters indicating they will not be seen until August 2021. They will have been on the list for two years. Some 100 therapists were doing contact tracing and swabbing. Some of the 100 therapists to whom we referred never went into their field of being proper clinicians. They are now being returned to the network disability teams. In Carlow-Kilkenny they are all back in their posts. The recruitment of a further 100 therapists will result in a dramatic improvement. That should be of some comfort to the parents as these therapists start to come on-stream. We are seeing the pathways and flows starting. It will take us some time to see the outcome after we have completed the assessments of needs but I am confident from talking to Ms Dwyer that this is a priority for her. I will speak with the CHO, which is fully responsible for this, to ensure this is a priority in CHO 5, not only within the disability area but also in primary care.