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Senator Paul Gavan challenges Government failing of children with Autism

26 September, 2019 - by Paul Gavan

Sinn Féin Seanadóir Paul Gavan has challenged the Government’s record on providing sufficient needs-appropriate learning environments for children with special educational needs.

Speaking in the Seanad this morning, Seanadóir Gavan said

“Government policy forces hundreds of children with autism, and other special educational needs, to go without needs-appropriate learning environments.

“Instead   they are put on reduced timetables and left with no option but to spend much of the time they should be in school at home.

“This position is further undermined by the lack of sufficient funding for home tuition, which remains to be an issue this far into the school year.

“The Minister has the power, since the enactment of the Admission to Schools Act 2018, to ensure that every school across this state has the appropriate level of classes for children with special educational needs. But he has made very little use of it.

“These children are locked out of their constitutionally guaranteed right to education by the simple fact that this government is not willing to pay for their education.

“There is a chronic lack of ASD special classes at post-primary level, and an unacceptable level of geographic inequity in this provision of special classes.

“In Cavan, there are seven special classes at primary level to every one at post-primary level.

“In Laois, this is similar. In Dublin, this ratio is 3:1, and similarly in Clare, Kildare, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Waterford, and Wicklow. 

“Only one county has a ratio of 1:1 – Leitrim, the least populated county in the state. The rest of the country faces deficits of 50%. 

 “Does Fine Gael envisage a society where half or more of our children with autism just don’t continue to second-level education?

“This issue is symptomatic of a government which is negligent in its duties. Not only that, but an obstructive government which is impeding the advancement of equality enshrined in our constitution. 

“Education is the keystone in the bridge to opportunity. We have removed that bridge for too many children, unduly burdening too many parents. 

“There is a clear solution – enforce the legislation and give these children the education that they deserve.”

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