Dáil Éireann - Volume 688 - 09 July, 2009

Written Answers. - Domiciliary Care Services.

Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason she is removing the DCA for children with autism; if her attention has been drawn to the hardship that this is causing children with autism and their parents; her views on the value of the DCA for children with autism in the absence of the State providing adequate schooling for children with autism; if she will reconsider the removal of this allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29611/09]

  Deputy Mary Hanafin: There has been no decision to remove the Domiciliary Care Allowance from children with autism. Of the first 249 applications for Domiciliary Care Allowance processed by the Department, 149 were refused and 100 awarded. Further examination of these cases shows that of those awarded, 12 children were specifically diagnosed with either, Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome and of the first 149 cases refused 16 children were specifically diagnosed with either Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome.

Eligibility for the allowance is not based primarily on the medical or psychological condition, but on the resulting lack of function of body or mind necessitating the degree of extra care and attention required. As such it is not possible to say if a child with autism or any other intellectual disability will or will not qualify for a payment under the scheme. Each application is assessed on an individual basis taking account of the evidence submitted.

Since the transfer to the Department the Domiciliary Care Allowance scheme is now a statutory scheme with the primary legislation provided for in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2008. Prior to the transfer the eligibility criteria for the scheme was set out by way of a Circular from the Department of Health and Children.

The Department uses a set of consistent and objective guidelines in determining the medical eligibility of children for the scheme. These guidelines were drawn up by a Group chaired by the Department’s Chief Medical Advisor comprised of senior medical personnel from the HSE as well as eminent professionals in the areas of physical disabilities which affect children, and child psychiatry/psychology. All claims are assessed by designated Departmental Medical Assessors who have received special training in Human Disability Evaluation.

In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed by a different Medical Assessor [461] specially designated for this task. Where a person is not satisfied with the decision of a Deciding Officer they may appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

The provision of adequate schooling for children with autism is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Education and Science.