A Social Democrats candidate for the Ballinasloe Municipal District has described as "extortionate" an insurance quotation of €26,000 which was given to a special school in Co Galway.
The figure received by St Teresa’s Special School in Creagh, Ballinasloe, which caters for 21 students, covers the insurance costs for a year. Local candidate and the father of a student attending the school, Ken Campbell, said the fee must be paid before May 1.
He said the school provides much more than just education and care for its 21 students. "It gives those children a sense of independence and belonging. It's also a growing school with an increase in students due next September, but due to the extortionate increase in our insurance costs being offered by our current insurers, and might I add the only insurer prepared to quote, I'm genuinely worried.
"Yes, there are additional risks involved when working with children with special needs but the majority of insurers don't even want to know and won't accept this type of risk and that's why they all declined to even offer terms. Yes, it's a special needs school, but how does an insurance company think it is possible for the school to have a future if it is going to be penalised simply because of its status or situation."
Mr Campbell, who is a member of the school's board of management, stated he understood that the facility's insurance is the responsibility of the board of management. "We must ensure that St Teresa's Special School has adequate insurance cover so the school policy would indemnify the school management against risks, such as fire and storm damage, together with liability to employees, pupils, and other persons and this is understandable. But when a school's insurance increases to over €26,000 for 12 months, which must be paid by the 1st of May, and will indubitably increase again next year. I mean how do they envisage that our school can function let alone be sustainable going forward? The capitation grant doesn't even cover the cost, and Ability West as patron, is not in a position to provide funding."
He was "livid" when he learned of the hike in insurance costs. "When I received the phone call in relation to this year's increase having already witnessed an unrestrained increase in the school's insurance last year, I was livid. This is just another form of discrimination against children with special needs. Special needs schools should have special status when it comes to insurance. Parents have enough going on in their lives without another worry been added to the list and that's why we need the State Claims Agency to step in and resolve this issue now and protect those most vulnerable in society.
"St Teresa’s Special School is situated down the Creagh Road beside the Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre, even though there is a site in town available for a new purpose-built school which could facilitate all the safety needs of the children and the staff and would more than likely reduce the cost of insurance. But as usual nothing is being done nor is any funding been made available to build the school.
"I've been working with and fighting against the system for eight years now with regards to special needs, and once again I'm infuriated by the continued failures of our system when it comes to dealing with anything relevant to children or adults with special needs, especially when it comes to basic issues. But my back is up again and those who know me know I don't back down. I will be making immediate contact with the Department of Education seeking additional resources to help our school meet the cost for this year and the foreseeable future."
He added that he asked the Minister for Education and Skills Joe Mc Hugh TD, what provisions, if any, are being put in place to support the school and is appealing to other parents to do the same.
"We need to highlight this issue; we need to address these ridiculous increases in insurance quotes because today it's our school, tomorrow it could be yours."