Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People

The vision for children’s disability services


  • One clear pathway to services for all children with disabilities according to need
  • Effective teams working in partnership with parents
  • Resources used to the greatest benefit for all children and families
  • Health and education working together to support children achieve their potential

What is this programme about?

At present there are some very good services for children with disabilities and their families but also some large gaps. There may be a service for children with an intellectual disability in a locality, but none for children with a physical disability. Some children and their families have little or no access to services.

We need a fairer way to provide services for children with disabilities:

  • Services should be based on a child’s needs rather than on their diagnosis
  • Children and families should have services available wherever they live

A national programme called ‘Progressing Disability Services for Children & Young People’ is changing the way services are provided across the country to make it equitable and consistent for all.

Access to services for children & young people to meet their needs

Many children with delays in development can have their needs met by their local Primary Care services (public health nurse, community speech and language therapy, family doctor, community physiotherapy etc).

Children’s Disability Network Teams will provide services for all children with complex needs and their families, regardless of the child’s disability or where he or she goes to school.

Parents and health professionals, instead of trying to find their way through a maze of services, will know where a child should be referred.  

How will this change affect services for my child?

Your child may currently have no service to go to because there is none in your area for his or her particular diagnosis or disability. When this programme is implemented you will have a service to go to with fair prioritisation based on your child’s needs.

Your child may presently be attending a children’s disability service and when the services are reorganised you will be moving to the local nearest team. You will be advised of all the details of any move before it happens.

This programme cannot solve all the difficulties in delivering disability services in the short term, but once services are reorganised into Children’s Disability Network Teams locally, it will ensure the best use of those resources available for all children with disabilities.


How is the programme being organised?

A National Working Groupguides and oversees the programme.

  1. Local Implementation Groups- representatives of services and parents are working out how services can be reorganised to achieve this improved structure and operation of services in their area. This includes:
  2. A review of what services are currently available for children with disabilities
  3. A review of the needs of children locally
  4. Planning how best to use resources
  5. Forming a partnership between all the disability organisations in an area so that they can work together
  6. Moving the current staff in disability services to form Children’s Disability Network Teams
  7. Helping families with their move to a new team and service  
  8. Making sure throughout that there is good consultation and communication

What stage has the programme reached?

Because of the way services have developed over the decades, each part of the country is at a different stage of reconfiguration.

In the Mid West and Meath, services had already changed to this structure prior to the programme and they are continuing to work towards achieving the aims and objectives of the programme. In Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, Laois, Offaly, Longford, Westmeath, Louth and Donegal, Early Intervention Teams have been formed and they are now preparing to roll out School Age Teams.

Services in West Cork, Kerry and Kildare/West Wicklow have reconfigured recently into Children’s Disability Network Teams and they are now focussed on developing their services and resolving any issues arising from implementing these major changes. The other eleven local implementation groups are currently planning their changes.