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(Ireland) 'What thousands of parents...desperately need are services'

May 9, 2023, Irish Examiner: Campaigner hits out at 'farcical' announcement on special education needs organizers

A campaigner for better special needs provisions has described as "farcical” an announcement that schools are to get better access to special education needs organisers.

The announcement was made on Thursday by the Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister of State for Special Education Hildegarde Naughton as part of a revised structure of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

The Department of Education said a key part of this revised structure is a move to a more "responsive, localised structure with dedicated resources allocated to each county".

It includes a 60% increase on the country's 80 Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs), who are employed to advise and inform about special needs services provision.

Added to the new SENOs, the government will also be funding additional support staff, team managers and what it describes as other “dedicated professionals”.

But Mark Darmody, a Tipperary-based father of two children who have autism, said: “What myself and thousands of parents like myself and my wife Noelle desperately need are services.

“What we don’t need are more SENOs telling us about services we can’t access because there aren’t enough staff to provide them in the first place.

“It is farcical. 

My oldest son, for example, is non-verbal and severely autistic and one of a number of children in Tipperary who are in the wrong school because the school they should be in is full. . . . 

The government has previously promised the number of teaching and Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts in schools will increase this year. They say this will see an additional 1,216 SNAs.

Ms Foley said: “The increased investment of €13 million [$14M] was so the NCSE could respond to the increasing needs of children. I want all children to access education in a way that meets their needs. Having a local SENO for parents and schools under this new structure is a key part of that.”

Ms Naughton said: “Our goal with this reform is to provide the best start in life for every child and to provide the supports that they need in their formative years and beyond. Our focus with these changes is to make access to special education supports more local and responsive to each child’s needs.

“Delivering more SENOs than ever before is key to ensuring that the right supports are going to the children who need them most. With more SENOs, our aim is to make what can be a stressful time for parents and children run more smoothly.”


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