About Assessment Of Need
Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 provides for a statutory assessment of need process. People who are of the opinion that they might have a disability (or certain others on their behalf) have the right to:
Apply for an assessment of individual needs, which is carried out without regard to the cost of, or the capacity to provide the service, identified in the assessment
A related service statement
Access to an independent redress and enforcement process
Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 was commenced for children under the age of 5 on 1 June 2007.
Commencement of part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 for school-aged children was intended to be introduced in parallel with the commencement of relevant sections of the EPSEN Act 2004.
This included the provisions relating to the assessment of special educational need and statutory Individual Education Plans. However, the relevant provisions relating to the right to an assessment of special education need in the EPSEN Act 2004 have not been commenced.
As a result, the only statutory right to an assessment of need process available to parents of a child with a disability is an assessment under the Disability Act 2005, despite the fact that a disability diagnosis has been required to access some educational supports, such as SNA support. However, the Department of Education has moved away from using diagnosis as a means of determining eligibility for some supports in schools, for example, Special Education Teacher hours.
In early 2022 a Standard Operating Procedure for Assessment of Need, which identified a child as having a disability but not necessarily providing a diagnosis, was ruled by the courts as not being in compliance with the intention of the Assessment of Need in the Disability Act. Therefore the HSE is in the process of revising its Standard Operating Procedure.
The National Disability Authority’s review of the Operation of Assessment of Need
Previously we were asked by the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive to review the operation of the Assessment of Need under Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005.
Although events have now superseded this review, many of the findings remain relevant.
The 'Report on the Practice of Assessment of Need under Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005', published in 2011, aimed to:
Describe the practice and understandings of various personnel involved in the statutory assessment of need process, and
Understand parents‘ understandings, motivations and experiences of the statutory assessment of need process
Some of the key findings of the report included:
In the absence of the commencement of relevant sections of the Education for Persons with Special Education Needs Act 2004 the Disability Act 2005 was being used largely as means to expedite special education assessments
That areas where early intervention services and/or children‘s services had been integrated, those services were better equipped to meet the demand for assessment under part 2 of the Disability Act
That assessors are extremely mindful of the resource allocation or service eligibility rules of the health and education systems from which parents are seeking support. Such rules play a critical role in driving a diagnostic approach to assessments
There was a great deal of variation in how long assessors took to conduct statutory assessments of need (but individual assessors contributed the same number of person-hours to conducting statutory assessments of need as they do to other similar non-statutory assessments that they conduct)
Many assessors were unclear as to what is required of them under part 2 of the Disability Act 2005
Parents were mostly positive about their experience of the statutory assessment of need process. Parent satisfaction is related to whether or not their child received services or enhanced services after the statutory assessment of need process was completed