Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has called for programmes to be put in place for children with additional needs who have been impacted by this year’s school closures.
With schools ‘unlikely’ to reopen for some time, Deputy Pringle has called for the return of summer programmes such as July Provision to support children who have regressed this year.
The deputy said we should be “realistically be looking at online learning and increased working from home for the rest of the year”, saying decisions must be made to allow people to plan.
Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, Deputy Pringle said: “At this week’s meeting of the Oireachtas Disability Group, we heard from advocates supporting parents of children with additional needs.
“The advocates told us of reported ‘major regression’ for some of the children from their time out of school and away from that routine. Regressions were reported relating to behavioural issues, some having seizures, losing vocabulary, losing the ability to speak, regression in their toilet-training, and reports of some being medicated because of their anxiety levels.”
He said the precedence is there.
“Advocacy organisations are calling for the roll-out of the summer programme that ran last year,” he said.
Deputy Pringle said the Government’s U-turns in relation to school reopenings have been unfair to students and their families.
He said: “The utter disregard for students, parents, teachers, principals and all of the ancillary school staff has been shocking. And I’m not usually shocked at this Government’s incompetence and arrogance. I expect it of you, unfortunately.”
Deputy Pringle credited the public response for changing the Government’s mind.
He said: “One thing this Government has been great for, has been demonstrating to everyone the power of the public and the power of standing together. Each U-turn of this Government has been because of public outcry and pressure. The people have the power. The unions have power.”
The deputy said there are reports that some universities are planning to be online from the first semester of the next academic year, while others haven’t decided or communicated plans for the rest of the semester.
Deputy Pringle concluded: “Let people plan. With all of the uncertainty around this pandemic, new strains, rates of vaccinations, etc., the least service providers and employers can do is some forward planning. Realistically we should probably be looking at online learning and increased working from home for the rest of this year.”