Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that the long sought after review of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 brings with it an opportunity for the State to heal relationships and renew its commitment of collaboration with families of children with special educational needs.
Speaking today at an Oireachtas Education Committee session on the EPSEN Act, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“The trust between families of children with special educational needs and the Department of Education has been very severely damaged in recent weeks and months, not least through the alarming revelations of last month’s Prime Time Investigates programme.
“Many families of children with special educational needs that I have spoken to are sick and tired of the continuing adversarial nature of their dealings with the Department of Education.
“There is a daily battle for these families, to secure supports that their child has rights to. It isn’t good enough.
“The adversarial culture within the Department of Education needs to change. AsIAm put this best – there needs to be a shift in attitude whereby the Department are viewed not as gatekeepers of supports, but as collaborators with families of children with special educational needs.
“For years now advocacy groups have been calling for a review of the EPSEN Act, which enshrines certain educational protections for children with special educational needs into law.
“The Act must be reviewed, to ensure that all children with special educational needs have a statutory entitlement to an Individual Education Plan and a timely Assessment of Need.
“This review presents an opportunity to once and for all make the uphill battle for special educational resources a thing of the past, to heal relationships between the Department and families, and to renew the commitment of partnership and collaboration.
“I look forward to working with families and advocacy groups going forward, to advance this review and to ensure that all children with special educational needs and their families receive the supports they deserve.”