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Taoiseach apologises to family of twins with autism who were 'failed' by the state

No longer can it be an option for schools to say we’re not taking in children with special needs, the Taoiseach said.

Image: PA

GILLIAN MILNE, THE mother of 11-year-old twin boys Kyle and Ryan who live with severe autism, today responded to an apology in the Dáil from the Taoiseach in which he said the state had ‘failed’ the family in providing an appropriate education for the children. 

Gillian and Darren Milne appeared yesterday evening on RTÉ’s Prime Time to speak about their experience. 

Speaking on today’s RTÉ Drivetime, Milne said it was “too little too late,” and that Martin can’t give them back the years her children should have been in school, making friends.

She said that the boys had regressed and that the family was in debt and had lost their home, as Gillian’s husband Darren Milne had had to leave his job as a bus driver to help care for his sons. 

The Milnes told Prime Time in 2019 that their sons did not have a place in a special school. They had been offered a place in an autism unit in a mainstream school in 2017, but the parents believed the facilities were not suited to the boys’ needs. 

As a result, the children were no longer able to avail of a home tutor paid for by the state. After appearing on Prime Time for the first time in 2019 the tutor was reinstated for a portion of the allotted hours per week. 

Speaking in the Dáil today, Labour leader Ivana Bacik said that this is a countrywide issue.

“Everywhere we go we are hearing about the difficulties in accessing places (in special schools) for children with autism.”

In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said today that he had watched the programme, and that it’s “not good enough.”

He added: “The state has failed the Milne family, and Ryan and Kyle in particular, in terms of providing a proper, comprehensive education … that would be appropriate to their needs.”

He added that the Milnes had applied for places for the boys in two schools and had been refused. 

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“I apologise to the Milne family on behalf of the government, because it’s not good enough. I don’t stand over this,” said Martin. 

“There’s an absence of proactivity in the system.”

Josepha Madigan, Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion, has been working on a framework to expand capacity in existing special schools, some of which are running out of space. The other side of that framework is establishing new special schools.

“We also need stronger legislation,” said the Taoiseach. “No longer can it be an option for schools to say we’re not taking in children with special needs.”

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