This year’s summer provision has come under sharp criticism once more after revelations that a special school in Letterkenny will be unable to provide the scheme.
The Summer Provision programme for pupils with special education needs usually operates in July to benefit more than 10,000 children with severe and profound intellectual disabilities and those with autism.
Two hundred schools have signed up to provide the programme so far this year, but there was shock locally when it emerged that Little Angels Special School in Letterkenny will not be in a position to provide the service.
Donegal Deputy Pearse Doherty said: “This is a huge blow for parents who had their expectations raised by the Minister last month and who have children with severe profound disabilities who require the continual social interaction and routine that July provision gives.
“Little Angels School is only one example of a facility that is not in a position to cater for July provision in the county. There’s a wider issue here and it’s looking now like this provision won’t be made available this year for many of those who need it most.”
The Donegal Sinn Féin TD has said that the July provision scheme has been ‘mishandled’ by Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, and that this has had disastrous effects for families in Donegal.
Deputy Doherty said: “Many families from across Donegal have contacted me in the past number of weeks expressing their deep concerns, frustration and anger at how the government have handled the roll out and communication of the July provision scheme which is of such importance to children with disabilities and their families.
“This year’s scheme has been so badly mishandled that it has caused hardship and serious distress to families.”
This year’s programme was set to include all pupils with Down syndrome for the first time. However, Donegal parents were left angered when it emerged that only primary school students with Down syndrome were eligible.
Many children with special needs have not had access to education since schools were closed in March and respite services have not been available since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The news now that July provision won’t be anywhere near the scale of the plan announced by the Government is a serious blow for families and carers,” Doherty continued.
Deputy Doherty has called on the Education Minister to deliver clarity to the confusion.
He said: “I have asked the Minister about this and I think he needs to come out to make a statement and explain exactly what is going on.
“Where mistakes have been made and promises made which now won’t be kept, the Minister needs to accept responsibility for this and apologise; but more importantly he needs to make it right. Nothing short of this will be acceptable.”