Proposal to segregate Children with autism must be scrapped – Matt Carthy TD
Cavan Monaghan TD Matt Carthy has described government plans to create Special Education Needs (SEN) centres in Dublin as ‘segregation’ and called for the proposal to be abandoned.
Deputy Carthy challenged Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on the issue during questions on promised legislation last Thursday. Earlier the Tánaiste had said that the issue was one of ‘not the best language’ being used.
Deputy Carthy responded:
“Returning to the issue of special education, the language is not the problem. The problem is the policy and the scandalous fact that in late May there are 80 children in Dublin and many more across the State who do not yet have special classes assigned to them for next September.
“The problem is that the Government has not planned to put in place the measures that would fulfil the parents’ wishes that these children with disabilities will be part of the school community rather than some anonymous special education centre, which now appears to be proposed.
“The NCSE and the Department have the data on the number of children with special educational needs, they have the budget and they have the powers to put these special classes in place. Those classes need to be provided. The Tánaiste needs to say very clearly today that any proposition that children with autism or other disabilities be segregated in the manner that has been suggested is unacceptable.”
Responding, Leo Varadkar said: “Whatever about language, and language is important, the policy is clear and the Government’s policy is absolutely clear. It is one of integration. If we want an integrated society, we must have integrated schools. It is the Government’s policy to provide children who have special educational needs with mainstream education. That could be in a mainstream class with the help of an SNA or it could be in a special class in a mainstream school. Three hundred additional special classes opened in mainstream schools in the past year and that is very significant. For every €4 we spend on schools now, €1 is spent on special education, more than ever was the case before. We are very committed to making sure that children get the education to which they have a right and which they need.”
Speaking this week, Deputy Carthy said:
“We only need to look to Direct Provision or the prefabs in schools across this country to see how a short-term measure can end up becoming a permanent fixture.
“Where a child needs a special class place, parents do not want them to be totally separated and segregated from other children. They want them to be part of the life of a school community.
“It is devastating for these parents that the government’s lack of planning has stripped them of this option.
“Families across the State would much prefer if the government focused on using the powers available to them to open special classes and ensure schools that do open classes are properly supported, funded and staffed.
“That way the government would be living up to its commitments to children with special educational needs – to have a place in a special class in a school, not a special education ‘centre’, segregated and isolated from the school community.
“The suggested proposals must be scrapped.”