Thursday, 5 May 2022
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Special Educational Needs
The letter I have states that children with complex special needs feel abandoned. They are absolutely at their wits' end. The take-up for the July provision is very low. I do not have the time to go into the figures, but it is a very finite number of students who are in special classes and special schools. It is not beyond our capability to provide the service for them for four weeks during the summer, but that is not happening.
Let us look at the figures alone. There are 8,108 children in special schools and 8,500, approximately, in special classes. The number attending the July provision is minimal. I have the figures in front of me. I ask the Minister of State to recognise that and to let the parents feel they are being heard. I know that the Department has set up a consultative forum, and I welcome that, but I asked the Minister of State about the review that was started in 2019. Has it been completed? Will it be published? Is it available?
The deficits have been pointed out by the people on the ground for whom July provision was set up. They are losing out. The Minister of State knows that, as does the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte. They are absolutely at their wits' end from the time the schools close until they open. They had to go to the High Court in the first place, and now the take-up of the service makes it impossible. What the Department has stated in its guidelines and in the letter to the principal is that the children will be able to do this at home. That is not possible. They need to go out. Summer camps and all the other things that are available to most children are not available to these children with complex special needs. I know that personally and professionally from being on the ground, as I am sure everybody here does, so-----