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Delays in special needs assessments ‘stopping children reaching potential’

Youngsters are waiting longer than the legal requirement of six months for a special needs assessment, the Children’s Rights Alliance said.

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Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward has said delays in special needs assessments are detrimental to youngsters’ development (Julien Behal/PA)

Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward has said delays in special needs assessments are detrimental to youngsters’ development (Julien Behal/PA)

Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward has said delays in special needs assessments are detrimental to youngsters’ development (Julien Behal/PA)

Delays in special needs assessments mean some children may not reach their full potential, a lobby group has warned.

More than 5,000 youngsters are having to wait longer than the law permits to have needs formally assessed before they can access public health services, the Children’s Rights Alliance said.

Health Service Executive figures released to RTE show that the average waiting time for an assessment is 19 months, despite a legal requirement for the assessment to be completed within six.

Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said the health service should be directing resources towards getting youngsters assessed within six months, as delays are detrimental to their development.

“Children have a right to an assessment within a six-month timeframe and that should only be longer in very exceptional circumstances.

“These are cases where they are not exceptional circumstances and children are waiting up to three or four years. That is a concern to us,” she told RTE radio.

“A three- or four-year period can be a lifetime. It means that if that child misses out on an assessment, they miss out on those services being unlocked, and it can result in them being very unhappy and not developing.

“Sometimes they miss out on hours at school because the school can’t cope with them because they are not getting the resources they need.”

Ms Ward added that the delays can lead to families reaching “breaking point”.

“It is a huge concern for these children that they won’t reach their full potential,” she said.

PA