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Severely disabled child denied education for 10 months after allegations of abuse at school

A new report from the Ombudsman for Children says education must be adaptable to the individual needs of children

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/maroke

A TEN-YEAR-old child with severe disabilities was left without education for nearly a year while a child protection case was ongoing concerning alleged abuse in his school.

A new report from the Ombudsman for Children highlights the case, where the parents of the boy, referred to as ‘Lorcan’ in the report, noticed “unexplained and unusual bruises and bite marks on his body”.

His parents took the boy, who is unable to speak, out of the school for children with special needs in April 2012 and made a complaint to the Gardaí.

While an investigation into the abuse was ongoing, the parents made an application to the Department of Education and Skills in September 2012 for home tuition funding, as Lorcan awaited a place to open up in a different school.

This request, however, was initially denied. The report said:

The Department were of the view that he was ineligible for home tuition as he had been voluntarily removed from his original school and still had a place there.

The department eventually relented and funded home tuition for Lorcan in February 2013. Further delays in processing an application occurred between October 2013 and December 2013 when a school place still could not be found for the boy.

After Lorcan’s mother made a complaint about the Department’s conduct, the Ombudsman for Children found that the way the application for home tuition was handled, and the delays involved, “negatively impacted” Lorcan while he waited for a new school place.

The Ombudsman made a number of recommendations to the Department after reviewing the case.

In September 2014, Lorcan was granted a place in a new school, and representatives from the Department met with his family and apologised for the delays in processing the applications.

The Ombudsman welcomed the action taken by the Department of Education and Skills’ following this case.

The report said: “The Department has accepted that there are cases where children do not fit in easily into schemes and that a clear process for dealing with such applications is necessary.”

Child-centred approach

Other case studies highlighted in the report included a child in residential care who went without a school placement for a full school year and had to defer his Junior Certificate exams, and a 13-year-old who was rejected by 28 schools over two years.

Since 2010, the Ombudsman for Children has received 3,148 complaints about schools. Last year, 800 complaints related to education were received.

OCO An infographic detailing how the Ombudsman for Children's office educates kids about their rights Source: Ombudsman for Children

Speaking upon the publication of the new Education in Focus report, Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said:

It is important that children receive education and supports that meet their needs at different times of their lives. This requires an education system to be flexible in taking a child centred, individual approach where necessary.

“As children’s rights become more and more embedded in the way Government works, it is vital that the education system continues to adapt and grow to allow for the greater variety of issues arising for children.”

Read: In adult hospital wards, children with mental health issues face ‘extreme distress’

Read: Foster kids without homes made vulnerable by HSE inspection issues

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Sean Murray

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