Speaking from Cork, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD criticised changes to SNA provision introduced by Minister Ruairi Quinn under Circular 03/2014 which will result in many children losing much needed Special Needs Assistant support across the state.
Deputy O’Brien said:
“This Minister has brought in changes to how SNAs are allocated to children on the back of the Board SNIP report in order to save money.
“People should be under no illusions – this is a cost saving exercise and is not about what is in the best interests of chidren.
“Under the new rules, for a child to qualify for SNA support they will have to be on the more extreme end of needs and require things such as assistance with feeding or going to the toilet, or lifting etc.
“Each school will have to supply Personalised Pupil Plans for a student seeking SNA support where the school demonstrates how they will reduce or eliminate SNA support for the child.
“Pupils going in to Junior Infants will be in school by the time they are assessed for SNA support which does not bode well for the child’s wellbeing and will place further pressure on the teacher and the whole class.
“Students with behavioural problems will find it especially difficult, if not impossible to get SNA support. Teachers are now expected to do many of the tasks that SNAs would previously have done, and are expected to work miracles.
“There have already been severe cuts to SNA numbers, and now instead of cutting it further, the Minister has in the most underhand way just created extra hurdles and hoops that pupils must go through in order to get an SNA.
“This will cause damage to children, and these new rules will inflict incredible needless suffering upon them.
“I am calling on the Minister to revisit these changes and ensure that children who need Special Needs Assistants get the support they need.”