The Disability Act 2005 provides for, among other things, the assessment of need of people with disabilities and the consequent drawing up of service statements. The assessment of need is carried out or arranged by assessment officers who are independent officers of the Health Service Executive (HSE). After the assessment, a service statement is drawn up by a liaison officer who is also an independent HSE official. There is a independent complaints and appeals machinery for people who are dissatisfied with the assessment, the service statement or with the subsequent provision of services. At present only children under the age of five are entitled to an assessment. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) have adopted standards for the assessment of need. Here we describe how the assessment of need provisions are being implemented. The rules will apply to all assessments although at present they apply only to children under five at the time of application and those who were under 5 on 1st June 2007.
All parts of the process, including applications, replies and correspondence between the HSE and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), must be in writing; this means that the documents are accessible under freedom of information or data protection legislation. It also means that information on the needs of people with disabilities and the services being provided to them will be more readily available. The HSE is obliged to keep records of assessments and services. Each year, the HSE must compile a report on the total needs identified in the assessment reports and the ideal timescale within which those needs should be met.