Labour demands Dáil debate on temporary segregated schools for children with autism

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
26 May 2022
  • Phenomenal disrespect shown to children with autism by govt

Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the disrespect shown to people with autism by this government is outrageous. Following the news announced on twitter by Minister Madigan that a separate ‘temporary’ education centres may be used for children with autism and other disabilities, Deputy Ó Ríordáin said parents and advocacy groups are shocked by the lack of joined up thinking by government and is demanding a debate on the matter to be facilitated next week.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Minister is out of depth in her department. The issue of special school places has been bubbling for over five years. Rather than a fair and inclusive approach to providing education for all children, overnight, we learned from leaks to the Irish Times of new plans to create emergency special school centres. This is simply outrageous and has had the effect of causing huge concern and distress for parents fighting for a place for their child.

“Unfortunately, they already know from past experience that these ‘short-term segregated solutions’ will quickly become the accepted norm.

“The leaked emergency solution suggests that these centres will be managed by the ETB working with the Department and the NCSE for children without a place in a mainstream school. This is totally at odds with what the Minister announced last week when she said she would use Section 37A powers to increase the number of places in schools for children who have additional needs. What could have changed in a week is beyond me.

“For a child with additional or complex needs it is completely unacceptable that an emergency solution like this would be the fallback position when it will have far reaching consequences. It will be hugely disruptive to their educational outcomes especially when we don’t know how long they will have to spend there. As Adam Harris of AsIAm has highlighted, these emergency centres may end up as special schools without the opportunity for children to integrate with their peers. Will there even be pathways to go on to special classes? It’s clear that no one in the Department is thinking through the potential consequences of a move like this.

“I met with parents affected in Dublin 15 on Tuesday evening and they are at their wits end. Every child deserves a fair and equal start. To segregate children during their development would have deep and lasting consequences. The lack of appropriate school places is having a devastating impact on children and parents throughout the country. It is an absolute scandal and government must facilitate a debate on this next week. The State cannot continue to fail thousands of families and children.

“We ratified the UN convention of the rights of people with disabilities yet continue to fail children with additional and complex needs. We in the Labour Party have consistently raised the unfair treatment these children and families receive, as have many advocates, stakeholder groups and families. It is genuinely unbelievable that there is no plan in place to give these children a fair start.”

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