Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

(See page 178)




  Each Trust will designate an officer to act as a point of reference in dealing with parents, offices of Education and Library Boards and other professionals who might be involved. (Ref 2.30 Draft Code of Practice.)

  In practice this designated officer will be the consultant paediatrician or senior clinical medical officer.

  There are currently three designated officers in Homefirst Community Trust/United Hospital Trust Area, one for each geographical area as follows: Larne, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey, Magherafelt and Cookstown, and Antrim and Ballymena. There is one designated officer for the Causeway Trust.

  The designated officer will be available to discuss professional concerns of Health and Social Services Trust staff where they feel a child may have special educational needs which requires notification to the Education and Library Board's Special Education Branch.

  Once a decision has been reached to proceed with a formal assessment, the Board will formally request the medical advice from the designated officer.

  Where the child has been previously known to the service, there is an obligation to return the completed advice within six weeks of receipt of the request. (Ref 3.38)

  Where the child has not previously been known (—unusual in that Health should have been contacted during Stages 1-3), the same obligation does not apply. The Trust should, however, make every effort to reply promptly. (Ref 3.39 and 3.40.)

  There are a few exceptions to the six week time limit as follows:

    —  exceptional personal circumstances affecting the child or parent during the six week period;

    —  the child or parent is away for at least four weeks during the six week period;

    —  an appointment for an examination/test is not kept;

    —  the Trust has no relevant information or records (Ref 3.39).

  On receipt of the request for medical advice, the designated officer, via the clerical staff, will:

    (1)  Acknowledge receipt of request to the parent and attach an information sheet together with information about holders of parental responsibility.

    (2)  Request medical advice from the relevant doctor (letter 2).

    (3)  Request nursing advice from the relevant nurse manager (letter 3).

    (4)  Request welfare advice from the relevant social services team (letter 3).

    (5)  Request speech and language therapy advice via the relevant manager (letter 3).

    (6)  Request occupational therapy advice via the relevant manager (letter 3).

    (7)  Request physiotherapy advice via the relevant manager (letter 3); and

    (8)  Request any other health advice deemed relevant (e.g., orthoptics/dietetics/podiatry/hospital consultants) (letter 3).

  The designated officer will not be responsible for seeking any additional information unless specifically requested by NEELB/SELB, or parents. The need for additional information may become apparent on receipt of all the separate advices.

  The designated officer will not be responsible for making any onward referrals, this is the sole responsibility of the examining doctor, nurse, social worker or therapist.

  All completed advice must be returned to the designated officer within six weeks.

  The designated officer will forward all completed advice at six weeks, with an outstanding advice being forwarded later. A reminder will be sent to all those via their line manager indicating that advice is outstanding (letter six). A covering letter (letter seven) will be sent to Education and Library Board with the completed advice indicating which advice is attached.

  The designated officer is not responsible for checking the content of individual advice.

  After receipt of all advice, usually within six weeks, the Education and Library Board has a further six weeks in which to send parents the documented evidence of the outcome of that assessment. The decision as to whether or not to make a statement must be made within four weeks. Parents have a right to state a preference for the grant-aided school their child should attend.

  The draft statement is sent to the designated officer. The designated officer, via the clerical staff, will copy the draft, excluding the attached advice to all relevant parties for comment re provision (letter eight).

  The designated officer will update the Special Educational Needs code on the Child Health system.

22 February 1999

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