Specail Ed. Needs

Fine Gael Special Education Needs Motion – Dail Eireann 31st March 2010

Deputy Dan Neville

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I congratulate Deputy Brian Hayes on his initiative in bringing this motion before the House.

The current strategy in the Department of Education and Skills in removing special needs assistants throughout the educational system is, as Deputy Hayes stated, causing havoc and must be reversed at once. This decision is simply wrong and unfair and must be reversed. People who require special needs assistants are vulnerable. They are people with less life opportunity than the majority of the general population. Special needs assistants provide these people with an opportunity to achieve their potential which is limited by their difficulties. We have seen the effects of allowing these children to reach their potential. People with special educational needs can, without assistance, suffer social and personal difficulties in their lives. It is unacceptable to deprive people, through the removal of this service, of the opportunity to reach that level of fulfilment in latter life. The Department should seriously rethink its attitude in this regard. Children with special needs were for far too long ignored by the education system.

We then changed that and recognised that those with special needs can be assisted, their life opportunities can be improved, the difficulties experienced by people who have such limitations can be overcome and they have an opportunity to live a better life. Many people with special needs who have been assisted went on to live very fulfilling, productive lives, but without the opportunity of guidance at a vital stage of their lives they would not have a chance to do that. The two areas in which the Minister of State and I are interested, namely, mental health and well-being are influenced by our opportunities in life at an early age, from infancy to school-going age. The input at school going age is vital for life opportunities. The Minister should seriously consider the approach she is taking in reducing the level of service to people who are extremely vulnerable