Protocol to reduce needs assessments for children 'sensible way to proceed', says judge

Protocol To Reduce Needs Assessments For Children 'Sensible Way To Proceed', Says Judge
Mr Justice Charles Meenan said the pre-trial protocol should be distributed to all lawyers that have been in involved in litigation brought over the operation of the 2005 Disability Act.
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High Court reporters

A High Court judge has described a new protocol designed to reduce the number of cases brought against the HSE over the assessment of children with special needs as a "sensible way to proceed".

Mr Justice Charles Meenan made the comments about a pre-trial protocol which, he said, should be distributed to all lawyers that have been in involved in litigation brought over the operation of the 2005 Disability Act.


The protocol outlines a series of steps aimed at achieving the early resolution of complaints brought over assessments of children's needs, which would be of benefit to all parties.

The steps include applicants sending pre-litigation letters to the HSE no later than seven weeks from the date of the decision they wish to challenge, and the HSE responding within 14 days of the receipt of that letter.

The letters should contain all the relevant information about the intended application and the basis for the complaint, the protocol adds.

If the matter complained of is capable of being resolved, either in part or completely, the protocol adds that the HSE should say so "in clear and unambiguous terms, providing detail of the proposed resolution".


Mr Justice Meenan said that while he welcomed the document, he was not making the protocol a rule, or a mandatory step where judicial review proceedings over the operation of the 2005 Act are contemplated.

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The judge made the comments about the protocol during Wednesday's sitting of the court after the HSE, represented by David Leahy SC, and Feichin McDonagh SC, who acts for the families taking the cases, updated the court on the progress that has been made.

The judge was also told that several cases against the HSE had been resolved following out-of-court talks.

Separately, the court fixed the hearing of two test actions which arise over assessments of educational needs by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), an autonomous body that comes under the remit of the Minister for Education, to a date in July.

The hearing of those test cases, the outcomes of which will affect many other similar actions, are expected to last for two to three days.

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