Donegal Deputy Thomas Pringle has criticised the government for delayed responses to calls for supports for children affected by the Mica crisis.
The Independent TD said school transport and mental health resources were not being prioritised by the department. Having raised several questions on the issues in recent months, Deputy Pringle said the delayed responses are “far from satisfactory”.
He urged families in temporary accommodation because of the mica crisis to contact the Department of Education if they are having difficulties securing school transport. The advice comes after a response he received recently from the minister.
Deputy Pringle said: “I raised this issue in the Dáil in March, and just recently received word from the Minister for Education, Norma Foley, that officials in the Department are available to assist families with queries on particular cases.
“The minister said queries around school transport can be addressed in an email to email@example.com,” he said.
In her response, the Minister also said cases referred to by Deputy Pringle will be considered on a case-by-case basis to assess transport options that can be offered to affected families, and that department officials will work with Bus Éireann in considering responses.
Deputy Pringle had raised these issues in the Dáil with the Taoiseach at the end of March, during questions on promised legislation.
Deputy Pringle said: “Earlier that month I had also raised this with Minister Foley, due to mixed messages coming from the Department and Bus Éireann on the matter.”
In that March discussion with the Taoiseach, Deputy Pringle had also asked about Donegal ETB’s submission for additional mental health resourcing in the context of mica, saying that the minister had previously committed to examining the submission. However, in a letter to TDs the week before Deputy Pringle raised the issue with the Taoiseach, the ETB viewed the lack of funds and resources offered as unacceptable.
Deputy Pringle said: “This recent response, two months later, is equally unacceptable.”
In her recent response to Deputy Pringle, Minister Foley said that while it is not feasible to increase the National Educational Psychology Service allocation to the schools concerned, there are a range of supports available. The minister said the schools should link with their assigned NEPS psychologist or the ETB educational psychologist in the region.
Deputy Pringle said: “This delayed response is far from satisfactory.
“I will continue to monitor this situation to make sure families affected by mica are receiving the supports and services they deserve, while Government continues to drag its heels on finding a long-term solution to the crisis.”