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(New Zealand) 'Huge demand' for services; 'Shortage of funding'

Nov 27, 2023, Stuff: 'Schools are stretched': Mum says disabled student funding doesn't cut it

Marilyn Devasia’s son is 7 and has autism. For years, he was non-verbal, not even saying the word “mum”.

He has Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding – the highest level of funding for disabled and high-needs students in New Zealand.

Despite this, Devasia still spends around $450 [$275] from her weekly salary on speech language and occupational therapy.

The funding is just “not enough”, she said.

ORS funding is notoriously hard to access. Around a third of students who apply for ORS are rejected each year, according to data obtained by Stuff under the Official Information Act.
The year 2022/23 saw the highest number of ORS applications accepted in the last six years – a total of 1234 students got funding.

Devasia’s boy is in one of those classes. It has been “amazing”, Devasia said, but it doesn’t give him the wrap-around support he needs.

“The school has resources, but they are stretched like mozzarella on a pepperoni pizza... They are pulled in many directions. It’s hard to cater to each child.”

Devasia – a nurse and single mum – switched to night shifts so she could support her son if needed during the day. She takes him to speech language and occupational therapy at a not-for-profit, Acorn, three times a week….

Devasia doesn’t think he would have made that progress with just ORS funding: “It’s definitely not enough.”

Tami Harris, Acron’s chief executive, said there’s a “huge demand” for extra support services like hers.

“There’s a shortage of skilled professionals and there’s certainly a shortage of funding. We have wait lists for every service,” she said.

Acron’s services are subsisted and there are scholarships available – but it’s still expensive.

“The government doesn’t fund the services we provide. So families need to pay for it themselves. We subsidize every every family's therapy, but it's still a financial burden,” Harris said.

Around a quarter of the kids at Acorn are regularly sent home from school. Teachers just don’t have enough funding to cater for them, Harris said.

Robyn Krawitz, an Auckland learning support coordinator, said this is true for most schools. ORS funding often covers a part-time teaching aide, she said. “Which means that you’ve still got the child at school part-time covered.”

“It’s up to a teacher with 20-something other children in a class to try and manage a student who desperately needs one-to-one support.”

The funding doesn’t cut it, Krawitz said.

“We have teachers who are at breaking point... We have students who do need that support to be successful at school, and they don’t have access to it.”

Ministry of Education head of operations Sean Teddy said the ministry spends about $1.3 billion [$787M] on learning support each year – 100 million [$61M] of that goes to ORS funding, which is meant to support 1% of students with the highest need.

“We recognise that the scheme cannot provide support for all families that want or need it, but we are always looking to improve,” he said.

The ministry also provides schools with other funding to support students that can be spent on teacher aides and resources. Other funding pays for specialist teachers.

“We will be working with the incoming Government to support all their education sector priorities,” Teddy said.

In the meantime, Devasia is certain that something needs to change: “There are so many people who [need extra help], but they can’t afford it”.

1 komentář

It's illegal for anyone with an autism diagnosis to immigrate to New Zealand and the UK, I've heard. I soon worry Australia, Japan, South Africa, Argentina, etc could be added to the "ASD-no-fly" list if they haven't already. Argentina's new "saviour" president is yet another viper in lamb's clothing, as antichrist-like Ron Desantis is to Florida (he is the "Mao Zedong of FL" with an increasingly extreme, violent cult of personality surrounding him by his braindead, hateful, mu/r/derous MAGA fanbase). If you voted for any of these/related "common sense" monsters in power selected by the powers that shouldn't be, but you did so with caution and critical thinking (and you don't threaten to l/y/n/ch or verbally threaten/attack opponents RL or…

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