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Special Needs

Martin warns of 'covert clampdown' on Special Needs Assistant supports

The Fianna Fáil leader says that new rules on SNAs will lead to “widespread cuts”.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been accused of a ‘covert campaign of medical card-style cuts’ to Special Needs Assistants (SNAs).

The accusation came from the Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin, who warned today that new rules governing SNAs “will lead to widespread cuts to school supports” for children with special needs.

“Medical card-style cuts”

Deputy Martin has accused the Government of a covert campaign of ‘medical card style cuts’ to SNAs after the publishing of a circular from the Department of Education.

This circular announced new guidelines that will see children with special needs subjected to reviews to keep their SNA supports.

In a column for this week, parent Catherina Woods said she believes that children with special needs are being failed in Ireland.

Writing that access to SNAs has been “drastically cut”, she said that the latest Department of Education circular “will further reduce the level of support for children and teenagers with special needs”.

Under the radar

Today, Martin described this new circular as “a deeply cynical move aimed at cutting SNA supports under the radar”.

The circular says that all SNA allocations are subject to annual review, and all allocations will be time-bound, initially for a period of three years, subject to annual review and to a full re-assessment at the end of the three-year period.

Schools will also be required to put in place a Personal Pupil Plan outlining the child’s special needs.

The circular says that for a child to require or qualify for access to SNA support, a child must have an assessed disability.

It adds:

The care needs outlined must be of such significance that they are beyond that which would normally be expected to be provided to a child by the child’s class teacher, support teacher, or other school teachers.

Martin said according to the circular, it “also seems that it will be virtually impossible to get any SNA support at secondary level”.

Said Martin:

We have already seen people with terminal illnesses or severe disabilities being forced to ‘prove’ that they still have those conditions in order to keep their medical cards. A child with Down Syndrome should not be subjected to constant reviews to check that they still have that disability.

He described the change in policy on SNAs as looking like it “will lead to the same highly insensitive and bureaucratic approach that will put families through a great ordeal to qualify for SNA supports”.

Martin said he wants to know what the Labour Party will do regarding this circular.

Read: Opinion: Children with special needs are being failed – this is not inclusive education>

Read: Special needs association hopes FF protest heckles don’t ‘distract from issues’>

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