Its a lovely sunny day here in Oldcastle. Its warm and there are fluffy white clouds in the sky, the birdies are singing and all seems at peace. Except its not. In an hour’s time I will be collecting my daughter from her school bus 13 miles away. Normally we’d then head straight back home for the evening. But today we will be driving to Mullingar to assemble for a protest at 5pm. Its not my idea of fun on what promises to be a lovely summer’s evening, marching in a protest – another protest – with my daughter in her wheelchair, but once again we have to. This is the third summer in a row we’ve gone marching and protesting. And I wouldn’t mind that too much (have always fancied myself as a bit of a rebel) but we are marching over the same issue – the right of children with special educational needs to receive full support in their educational career.
Yesterday Ruairi Quinn, Minister for Education, announced he had reversed a decision to cut resource teaching hours to children with special educational needs by 10%. When making that announcement, Minister Quinn said he regretted if the parents of these children had gone through anguish as a result of the announcement of the cuts which had been made last week.
A few people have said to me yesterday and today that we should be delighted at the reversal of these cuts. And don’t get me wrong, I am. But there is so much more that we are still fighting for – or against. Here is just a quick list:
* There is still a cap on Special Needs Assistants despite a bigger demand.
* The 15% reduction in resource hours in school has not been reversed.
* HSE recruitment embargo means waiting lists are getting longer and several children are not accessing the clinical supports they need.
* Children with Down Syndrome are not automatically getting resource hours in school.
* Siblings with autism have to share a tutor and now receive half the tuition they were originally granted during the month of July.
* Children with Down Syndrome, Fragile X and other neurodevelopmental disorders are not entitled to July provision.
Add to that battles that I am hearing of on a daily basis from other parents such as the HSE not sanctioning wheelchairs for growing children due to lack of money, problems with school transport to the only schools suitable to meet a child’s needs, horrendous waiting lists for occupational therapy and speech & language therapy owing to the HSE embargo on recruitment and to hear a senior Government minister regret any ‘anguish’ caused by cruel and savage cuts and you might understand why it makes me fume.
Anguish, Minister Quinn? You don’t know the bloody half of it.