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(Ireland) Op Ed: SCANDAL-Govt fails to provide support, services for special needs children

Sept 9, 2023, Irish Independent: Editorial: Personal stories of special-needs children tell true tale of state failure

Sometimes it takes the personal testimony of parents at their wits’ end to cut through official jargon and get to the heart of the ongoing crisis that remains the country’s health and social care service. In this newspaper today, under the headline ‘Who Cares?’, reporters Wayne O’Connor and Ali Bracken detail the extraordinarily difficult circumstances that families who have children with special needs are forced to endure, and the near-total disregard of the State.

Separately, we report on a series of terse exchanges between prominent officials in the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health on the funding of the health service, which runs to billions. In the dry text of officialdom, that report illuminates how the failing health and social care services in this country come to be financed.

The harsh reality behind such decisions is to be found in a new report compiled by the Special Needs Schools and Classes Parents’ Group that will be sent to TDs and senators this week. The detail is shocking and heartbreaking. More than that, it is a scandal in the here and now, and that is the failure of the State to provide services and supports for children with special educational or acute needs.

Separate from the report compiled by parents, Wexford woman Audrey Dore-Geraghty, the mother of a severely autistic and potentially schizophrenic nine-year-old boy, tells her family’s story following years of “systematic neglect” by the health service. “This is my child, a child I love. But I’m also scared of him,” she says with painful honesty.

The Dore-Geraghty family’s ordeal is well known to the health services in the south-east, who pointedly admit that waiting times and staffing shortages mean services often falls short of what families expect and their own staff would want to deliver.

The issue would seem to be that those children with the most complex needs who should have access to a school-based summer programme do not; and the Department of Education cannot contractually compel special-needs schools to provide such a service during summer months, notwithstanding a doubling of funding to €40m [$43M].

This is another classic case of one government department attempting to pass the buck to another, and both seeking to blame somebody else for a desperate problem that could be resolved by proper joined-up thinking in the spending of a relatively small proportion of an overall health budget of around €30bn.

The officials concerned are challenged today to read the account of Audrey Dore-Geraghty and other parents who bear the daily consequences of a blatantly not-fit-for-purpose service….

In the case of this country’s special needs children, the same charge applies today. The State stands accused of disgracefully failing this country’s special needs children and their families.


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