Tuesday, 18 March 2008
That Parallel Universe I promised.
Did you ever start something and half way through,when the process is so thoroughly turgid you have one of those "what was I thinking?" moments. Well I'm slap bang in the middle of one of those moments - like just past the half way point in the dark tunnel where you have no choice but to keep going. Such is life in the middle of the latest HSE bureaucratic beauty - known as The Assessment of Need. At this point in the journey, my own personal needs could be met fairly quickly and effectively by a week in the Sun enjoying those drinks topped with paper umbrellas, or a good hypnotist telling me I've just woken from a session and the last 3 months were all a dream!
But alas I'm stuck here grappling with the immobile Gorilla that is the Assessment of Need. This little treasure was obviously cooked up by our country's best and brightest public servants with only mayhem on their minds. It even sounds positively progressive on paper. It's all there in black and white in the Disability Act 2005. Under this marvel of modern democracy, children under 5 years of age are entitled to an independent assessment of their health and educational needs arising from their disability. See, I told you it sounded good on paper. Once assessed, your child will receive a service statement - but you see, now this is where it begins to resemble a dodgy second hand car dealership. Your child is then legally entitled to the services laid out in that statement - now, how good does that sound? Except there's a but, and this is a really big one, your child is only entitled to services where available. Those two words 'where' and 'available' those harmless little collections of vowels and consonants are capable of making a complete nonsense of everything that precedes them. You go through months of assessment, 6 long months in total under the Act, to be given a statement of your child's needs but no provision of services. I warned you it was a beauty!
There are also some lovely twists along the way. For example, Rory, as you are by now, quite sick of hearing, has some quite urgent speech and language therapy needs. You don't really need to be a trained assessor to spot that one. As you also know, Enable Ireland have no speech therapist in Galway, so there is no one to carry out that part of his assessment. Hold on to your frontal lobes here - as you may experience some throbbing shortly. I innocently enquired about paying privately for this part of the assessment. Pure sacrilege on my part of course! This assessment may only be carried out by a private therapist where there is a clear case of urgent need and no one qualified within the public sector to carry it out. Apparently Rory doesn't yet fit these criteria,(go figure that one), consequently, a speech therapist must be found within the next 4 wks to assess him or they will be in breach of the act.
Nothing like the possible breach of an old act to focus the mind of a public servant! I received a call from the local Speech Therapy services manager last week. I had spoken to her last summer before I ended up at the office of the Ombudsman for Children. She was at pains to point out her safety concerns about offering Rory a service - what if he gagged? What if he can't swallow? I explained to her again, as I had also done in detail last summer, that there was nothing physically stopping him from eating - this was an acquired defensive behaviour quite common among kids who have been tube fed from birth. The problem was we couldn't get anything into his mouth! Still she felt uneasy and had even phoned Temple St. to see if they could carry out a special test under control conditions. I politely asked what exactly was involved in the test. "Oh he'll just have to swallow something and it will be filmed going down his oesophagus" she chirped. "But we can't get him to swallow anything" I wailed "that's why he needs Speech Therapy!" Her reply was an abrupt 'we'll get back to you.'
Is it just me, or is this a parallel universe populated by people who's minds are wired in a completely different manner to the rest of us poor mortals?
But lets remember here folks, while the HSE continues to prevaricate, there is a little boy who got a kidney from his dad who still can't eat.