02 Oct 2022

Longford preschool owner ashamed she has to beg Government for special educational needs supports

Minister for Children to consider case of two Longford children with special needs

Longford preschool owner ashamed she has to beg Government for special educational needs supports

Longford / Westmeath TD Joe Flaherty speaking about the issues facing many early education providers

The Dáil has heard how a Longford preschool owner is appalled and ashamed that she has to beg Government, on behalf of children and their families, to listen to them and put appropriate supports in place for children with special educational needs.

Also read: Longford mum Lynsey Bennett was 'failed by the State'

Speaking about the issues facing many early education providers, Longford / Westmeath TD Joe Flaherty, raised the case of a provider that is desperately seeking funding and support for two children with special needs. 

And he received assurance from Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O'Gorman TD that he is aware of the case and that he, along with the Minister of State Anne Rabbitte will see what can be done on the health side.

Deputy Flaherty outlined that 'in the interest of vulnerable special educational needs, SEN, children in particular' that a review  into the access and inclusion model, AIM, has to be fast-tracked. 

"I am aware of an early age manager from county Longford who has been in touch with the Minister and the Department. She is desperately seeking funding and support for two children with special needs who, unfortunately, are not yet of ECCE age. It is clear we need a strong suite of supports for SEN children in the early years sector, which means interim support for SEN children who to date do not qualify for additional supports, such as the two children identified in county Longford," said Deputy Flaherty. 

He added, "One of the children has Angelman syndrome but, unfortunately, as they are outside the ECCE age group, they have no AIM worker, yet the facility is required to provide full-time one-to-one care and supervision. The second child is due to join the facility in March. He too will be outside the ECCE age and, similarly, will need a dedicated primary carer to help ensure he reaches his optimal development."

Acknowledging how hard parents of SEN children have to fight for the most basic educational rights, the Fianna Fáil deputy opined 'if we are serious about promoting an inclusive service that caters for all children, the operators, parents and staff need to know that the supports will be there to help children who need additional assistance'.

Deputy Flaherty remarked, "The clearest signal we can send to parents and children, if we are serious about SEN education, is to address it from the bottom up. We need to set out a marker for ourselves and how we move forward with the early years education system."

Minister O'Gorman said he was aware of the case, adding that the AIM funding does not apply to those children, although it is a very beneficial and useful scheme.

He explained, "There is a gap in the provision at the moment, but we recognise it and the Minister of State and I, at the higher level, will be conscious of addressing it. When the Minister of State's disability brief moves to my Department, we will have the ability to examine the issue in a more joined-up manner. On the specific case, I will ask the Minister of State to engage and see what can be done on the health side."

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