I propose to take Questions Nos. 490 and 570 together.
There has been a significant rise in overall activity in recent years in respect of the children encompassed under the process of assessment under Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005. This process provides for an assessment of the needs of eligible applicants, occasioned by their disability, to be commenced within three months of receipt of an application and completed within a further three months. Although the HSE recognises that it faces significant challenges in respect of meeting the statutory time-frames which apply to the assessment of need process given the number and complexity of cases, it is taking a number of measures to address the issue. While any delay in assessment or intervention for any child is not desirable, the assessment process under the Disability Act can take place in parallel with any intervention which is identified as necessary. The HSE has issued guidance to its staff that where there is a delay in the assessment process, this should not affect the delivery of necessary and appropriate interventions identified for a particular child. In addition, targeted action plans have been put in place since early 2011. Measures have included: prioritising assessments, holding additional clinics, contracting the private sector to conduct assessments and reconfiguring resources to target areas of greatest need.
Following the publication of a report commissioned from the National Disability Authority by the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive, a major emphasis is being placed on reconfiguring disability services for children into integrated multidisciplinary geographically-based early-intervention and school-aged teams as part of the implementation of the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme. This involves the roll-out of a new model of service, the objective of which is to bring about equity and consistency, with a clear pathway for children with disabilities and their families to services, regardless of where they live, what school they go to or the nature of their difficulty. The Programme is a key priority for the HSE in 2014 with an additional €4m allocated to assist in its implementation. My Department has asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the detailed operational issues that he has raised.