Dáil Éireann - Volume 596 - 26 January, 2005

Written Answers. - Psychological Service.

  1104. Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide in tabular form the number of children on a county basis, who are waiting for assessment by the national educational psychological service psychologists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1250/05]

  Ms Hanafin: Provision of individual psychological assessments is part of the work of the educational psychologists in the national educational psychological service. The psychologists do not keep waiting lists of children requiring assessment in the sense of lists of names that are dealt with in chronological order. School authorities refer children for assessment and discuss the relative urgency of each case during the psychologist’s visits. This allows the psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and such children will be seen or referred on in a matter of weeks, if not days. In order to respond to non-urgent needs and to add value to the psychological service, the national educational psychological service is pursuing a policy of enhancing the skills of teachers in the areas of group and individual testing, programme development and behavioural management. This means that many children’s needs can be speedily met without the necessity for individual psychological assessment, although the psychologists are available as consultants to teachers and parents, therefore helping the children in an indirect way. This helps to reduce waiting times for individual assessment.

The national educational psychological service is being developed on a phased basis over a number of years and has not yet reached its full staffing complement. Pending expansion of its service to all schools, my Department has allocated funding to the national educational psychological service to allow for the commissioning of psychological assessments from private practitioners. The national educational psychological service has issued details of how to avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments to all schools and these also appear on my Department’s website.

The national educational psychological service is conducting a review of the operation of the scheme. According to the figures available for the school year 2003-2004, 1,237 schools availed of the scheme. Of these, approximately 600 did not use their full entitlement of two assessments per 100 pupils. In addition, close to 400 schools that are eligible to avail of the scheme have never used it. This seems to indicate that the demand for assessments is being met. The review of the scheme will examine ways in which it may be [618] used more flexibly to respond to any unmet needs for assessment.