A legal challenge aimed at compelling the HSE to assess the health and educational needs of three young siblings with suspected autism will return before the High Court in the coming weeks.
The cases are the latest of dozens of High Court proceedings brought against the HSE on behalf of young children over alleged lengthy delays in having their needs assessed.
These actions have been taken on behalf of the three brothers, who are all aged under 7 years, by their mother.
They claim that an application to have the children’s needs assessed by the HSE was submitted at the end of March 2018.
In each of the brother’s cases that process has not commenced.
If the boys don’t get the appropriate resources to meets the needs of their suspected conditions their development may be permanently affected, it is claimed.
They claim that under the 2005 Disability Act a child’s assessment must start within three months from when the completed application form is received by the HSE.
The children, represented by Feichin McDonagh SC, Brendan Hennessy Bl instructed by solicitor John Rogers, claim the HSE has been guilty of undue and excessive delays in considering the three boy's applications for assessment of their needs.
The nine-month delays in conducting the assessments are an unjustifiable default in the discharge of a public duty in circumstances where the legislation states the assessment should commence within three months, it is claimed.
The High Court heard that the eldest of the three brothers was diagnosed as having global developmental and speech and language difficulties in 2017.
In the three years before the eldest boy was formally diagnosed with those conditions, he received a total of eight hours of speech therapy, it is claimed.
Since he was diagnosed he has had no treatment other than a meeting with a specialist liaison nurse dealing with children with autism, it is also claimed.
The second boy has not been formally diagnosed but a public health nurse has noted that he had both global development and speech and language delays.
The children’s mother is concerned that the second boy shows many of the signs of autism.
The youngest boy has been referred for early intervention because a public health nurse had concerns given the family history.
Their mother says the youngest is also showing signs of autism, claims he also has communication problems and believes the youngest son’s symptoms are getting worse.
The lack of formal diagnoses coupled the delays have resulted in the children being unable to secure places in schools or playschools with specialist autism units, it is alleged.
As a result of the failure to conduct the assessment sought in March, the children seek orders directing the HSE to commence and determine an application to assess the child’s needs under Section 9 of the 2005 Disability Act.
The children also seek declarations including that the HSE failure to commence the assessment of their needs is unreasonable, contrary to natural and constitutional justice and is contrary to the HSE’s obligations under the Irish Constitution.
The children further seek damages, including aggravated damages for an alleged breach of duty the violation of their rights.
Permission to bring the challenges was granted by the High Court shortly before Christmas and the cases will return before the courts in the coming weeks.