Deputy Martin Browne: children with additional needs must have supports while schools are closed
Children with additional needs and their families need immediate supports as we face into a period of school closures, according to Tipperary TD Martin Browne.
While we must ensure that the Government engaged with unions, teachers and families to develop a comprehensive plan to reopen our schools as soon as was possible, the needs of children with additional and emotional needs must not be forgotten in the intervening period, said the Sinn Féin TD.
"Since the Government’s u-turn on school opening last week, I have been in contact with many parents across County Tipperary who are concerned that while we wait for conditions to be right for the reopening of schools, their children will be left without the supports, tuition and activities they need," he said. "This cannot be allowed to happen."
Deputy Browne said that we now needed to see a range of supports put in place to help children and their families through this lockdown.
For example, there are some children for whom routine is an extremely important factor in their wellbeing. That routine was interrupted during the first lockdown of 2020, and the impact of that interruption was profound. It caused undue hardship and stress for the children concerned. Many families struggled to cope with this, while trying to also deal with the overall challenges of organising family and work life which had also been turned upside-down.
"This is one reason why it is imperative that the mistakes made during that lockdown are not repeated this year," he said. "So, until our schools open, our families must be listened to, and their needs must be recognised and facilitated in line with public health advice."
Whether this was through limited engagements between children and professionals at specific locations, alternative forms of tuition, or if it were through other methods that could act as a substitute for the interrupted routine, we must, as a society demand that our children were not forgotten about again, said the Cashel TD.
He said that the Government must listen to our children and their parents and teachers and have an open mind as it engaged with the unions, and organisations such as Down Syndrome Ireland, Inclusion Ireland and As I Am must be included.
"No stone can be left unturned to ensure that the children of County Tipperary who have additional needs are treated as a priority, while always taking account of the health and safety of all the students, teachers and SNAs concerned," said Deputy Browne.