Longford TD Joe Flaherty insists children with special needs cannot be left behind in COVID-19 crisis
Fianna Fáil TD for Longford, Joe Flaherty, has said that parents are growing increasingly worried about their children with special educational needs as the COVID 19 crisis continues.
Deputy Flaherty said that parents are struggling to establish a suitable educational daily schedule which meets the needs of their children.
He explained, “There are vulnerable children struggling being at home during this time. School was a constant in their lives, it’s where they had additional support in a positive environment in which they were encouraged to thrive.
“They were making strides in their development but now, due to the COVID-19 outbreak they are at real risk of regressing. Parents are trying their best, but they can’t replicate all the additional supports which a child receives during their typical school day.
“Children with special needs don’t have access to the speech and language therapy and occupational therapy that they need at present. At the best of times special needs education is abysmally funded and poorly supported in Longford but against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis cracks are really starting to appear.
“Any progress which has been hard fought for will be completely wiped out. If the schools do not return this side of the summer holidays for some children, it will be starting out on blank slate again.
“Whilst public health and safety has to be foremost in all our minds, children with special needs should not end up paying a greater price for this sacrifice. The Department of Education needs to prioritise continuity of education for children with special needs and they need to do it immediately.”
Deputy Flaherty also said the July Provision programme, a Department of Education scheme which provides funding for an extended school year for children with a severe or profound general learning disability, needs to be extended in light of the pandemic.
He continued, “If schools are to remain closed until September the Department of Education need to consider expanding the availability of the scheme and extending it into the year.
“Finally, the cancellation of respite for children with special needs is leading to an increase in carer burnout. Undoubtedly there will be a huge demand for the service when restrictions are lifted, and the Government need to plan now to ensure that the service can cope,” he concluded.