Children should not be left lingering on waiting lists for special school places

25 May 2022
  • Govt unable to provide regional breakdown for waiting lists

Speaking in the Dáil today, Labour health spokesperson Duncan Smith criticised government for a failure to properly plan and resource special school places.

Deputy Smith said:

“Last week a family once again had to resort to telling their story to RTÉ to vindicate the constitutional right to education for their children. When Labour Leader Ivana Bacik raised it with the Taoiseach last Wednesday he apologised to the family, and we are glad that the Milne family have now been given a commitment to local school places. However it should never have had to come to that. No parent should have to put themselves in that position, of opening up their private lives, just to get access to an education for their child.

“It is deeply concerning to learn that government does not have any grasp of the number of families in a similar situation to the Milne’s. When I asked government for a regional breakdown of waiting lists for special schools, none were forthcoming. Yet, we understand that there is over €2 billion in the education budget for complex needs. We cannot keep throwing money at issues in the system without having a proper, evidence based approach to spending it.

“The sad reality for families in this situation is that there is a failure to properly plan for special class places. Even the legislation underpinning the framework is out of date. While government seem wed to the idea of another review, we in the Labour Party are acutely aware that a review will not help parents who are struggling now and it will not address the right to education for children with additional needs.

“Until we know how many children are waiting on special school places, we will be unable to ensure that every child who needs a place is granted one. Timing is of the essence. A recent AsIAm report showed that a quarter of parents of children with autism felt they didn’t have an appropriate school place. Rather than wait for a review, we need government to act for these children now.”

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