I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 to 221, inclusive, together.
Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 makes provision for the introduction of very specific obligations on the health services, including a statutory entitlement to:
an independent assessment of health and education needs (Section 8);
a statement of services (Section 11) which it is proposed to provide;
an independent redress and complaints mechanism (Section 14) if required;
make an appeal to the independent Disability Appeals Officer (Section 18).
The Disability Appeals Officer (DAO) is an independent officer appointed by the Minister for Health whose purpose is to provide an appeals service to people who wish to appeal (i) against a finding or recommendation of a complaints officer of the HSE made under the Disability Act 2005; or (ii) against the failure of the HSE or an education service provider to implement a recommendation of a complaints officer. The Office of the Disability Appeals Officer (ODAO) was created to support the DAO in the performance of his/her functions. It should be noted that the Disability Act does not create an office which exists independently of the person who holds office and, accordingly, the ODAO is not a corporate body. Since 2007, the ODAO has successfully supported the DAO in providing the appeals service envisaged under the Disability Act. From 2007 staff from the Department of Health were assigned to the ODAO to assist the DAO in the performance of her functions.
Following the decision in October 2008 to defer further roll-out of Part 2 of the Disability Act for other cohorts, it became apparent that the ODAO did not have the volume of work originally envisaged and by 2011 there was an insufficient quantum of work to justify a full-time DAO position. The existing Disability Appeals Officer resigned her position with effect from 31/12/2011 and my Department is in discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the filling of this post. In the interim, a Principal Officer on my Department's staff has been designated to discharge the duties of the Disability Appeals Officer and is independent in the performance of this function. A longer term arrangement will be put in place as soon as possible.
The provisions for parents wishing to make an appeal have not changed and appeals will continue to be determined in accordance with the provisions of the Disability Act. Because of the reduced volume of work a decision was made to monitor the low call number for one hour per day as the volume of calls averages five per week. The person monitoring the calls is an official from my Department, who has worked in the ODAO since 2007 and is now assigned to these duties on a part-time basis.