- Children with special needs refused support -
Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Fingal, Darragh O’Brien has described the refusal of Special Needs Assistant support for children with disabilities to enter into a 2nd ECCE preschool year as a denial of their right to a quality education.
Speaking on the issue, O’Brien said, “The Government made an announcement and a promise to deliver a second pre-school year but then sat back doing little to see it happen. I have consistently raised this issue and that the State does not have the capacity for this expansion.
“As we approached the beginning of the new school year, I was gravely concerned to learn that many students with complex needs had been denied the support of an SNA for a second year.
"These are students who would have previously received an SNA up to the maximum 15 hours per week for the first preschool year. The funding was deemed formally unavailable for their second year on the premise that it can only be awarded for 1 year.
“The support of an SNA is crucial in order to facilitate attendance and an appropriate experience of learning. The reality is that these students in my constituency and nationwide have been excluded from a 2nd ECCE preschool year as they require critical supports for their needs. Many families have been left vulnerable and unprotected.
“The department must clarify why a policy was adopted to seemingly allow all Irish children access to a second pre-school year free, yet a child with special or particular needs in pre-school is not entitled to an SNA. That would render their first year in pre-school a waste.
“Our party are committed to supporting those with disabilities, particularly children as early intervention is integral to the quality of their future. The denial of a formal learning experience for those with complex learning needs, like all other children, is appalling and wholly unacceptable.
“I have submitted further questions to the Minister to seek further explanation on such a denial and I intend on raising it in the Dáil at the next available opportunity,” added O’Brien.