Thursday, 10 September 2020
Services for People with Disabilities: Statements
Darren O'Rourke (Meath East, Sinn Fein)
I will continue in the same vein as the previous speaker by talking about the need to ensure that transport services are in place. St. Ultan's special school, Navan is served by 22 buses, all of which are close to capacity. Twenty of those buses carry students for St. Ultan's and other schools, including St. Mary's special school. Issues in that regard need to be acknowledged and addressed as quickly as possible. I have been contacted by numerous parents who have expressed their genuine and earnestly-felt concerns. They need to be addressed.
The issues extend beyond that and I encourage the Minister for State to contact her colleagues in education and transport about the constraints on school bus transport. Some 120,000 children were carried on buses last year, including 14,000 with special educational needs. Only 97,000 places have been allocated this year, a reduction of 23,000. That urgently needs to be tackled. My colleague, Deputy Ó Laoghaire, in conjunction with me and Deputy Conway-Walsh, has submitted proposals for tackling that matter. This obviously has clear implications for mainstream and special schools, children with additional needs, and people who are attending day services. It also has implications for the broader transport network. I have been contacted by numerous people who are delighted that services are beginning to open up again albeit that service is patchy and partial. The lack of transport services is a significant block. We must get back to a place where those services are provided again.
I thank the Minister of State for meeting a constituent of mine, Ms Laura Campion, who has been advocating on behalf of her sister. As we have heard from other Deputies, the Minister of State is engaging with groups but we want to see as much progress as possible. Particular concerns have been raised about contingency planning. Nobody wants to go back to lockdown so let us see the plan to continue opening up services and providing respite for families. It is not an issue about day services but it has been reported that some people have experienced significant difficulty in accessing respite, which is of concern.
I will speak about access to day services for adults who live in a residential setting with my remaining few seconds. Service providers have stated that service users in residential respite will be unable to attend their day service under current HSE advice. That is of considerable concern and the gap needs to be addressed.
I wish the Minister of State well in her efforts to tackle those problems.