Seanad debates

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Commencement Matters

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

2:30 pm

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I will give the Minister of State a brief synopsis of this matter. The Holy Angels Day Care Centre opened in Carlow in 1978 in the basement of Carlow's old district hospital by a Presentation nun, Sister Columba. She was given a cheque for £100 from the south east health board and with the names of five children with special needs from the local area, Holy Angels was set up to provide a day care service for children with special needs of preschool age, that is, those aged from 18 months to six years of age. In 1983, a new site was bought in Straw Hall at a cost of £52,000, on which prefabs were erected.In 2005, a needs assessment was carried out and the school was told that the current site would not allow for expansion due to the number of children being looked after. In 2007, the Holy Angels received a donation of a site from a businessman in Carlow. Following that, the HSE assigned a design team to have plans drawn up. In 2011, the HSE told the Holy Angels it could go to tender but in 2012, the HSE came back and advised that the Holy Angels could not have this until the site was in its name. This was the first we had heard of that. The site had been given, everything was going ahead and it was at the design stage. We then met with the then Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, in Carlow. He said that he could not believe this and that the HSE, as far as he was aware, did not need to have the site in its name before progressing.

It is now 2016. There are 35 children in the Holy Angels, ranging from 18 months up to six years of age. There is a waiting list of 20-plus. In addition, the roof is leaking, the doors need to be fixed and the floor needs to be replaced. The school has been waiting 11 years for capital funding for a new school. It has been overlooked for years and is now at the stage where it cannot expand or take in the children who need to attend the school. It is 38 years since the school opened and it has gone from the basement of an old school to prefabs and it is still in prefabs. This is 2016 and there are children with a disability, the most vulnerable in our society, still in prefabs. I wanted to give the Minister of State a rough idea of how the Holy Angels started as this is just not good enough.

The Holy Angels has a great manager and staff and a great fundraising committee, which has been fundraising to help with the building of the new school. Some €4 million is what it is looking for. As I said, the site has been donated and the school has been given several commitments that it will be given this €4 million to build a new school but it has not happened. It is unacceptable that again Carlow is totally forgotten. We have a school, or prefabs, with a leaking roof and floors in need of replacement. It is absolutely appalling that young children and babies are still in prefabs. I will bring this up every month because this cannot be allowed to happen in this day and age. I am ashamed to say that 38 years on, no funding has been given to this preschool. It is unacceptable.

I am sure Tír na nÓg has been in contact with the Minister of State too. It is a respite centre. I will give the Minister of State a rough synopsis of this as well.


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