Galway school leavers with disabilities left in limbo due to funding cuts

“Children should not be denied an adult day service because of economic mismanagement”

Concerned parents of school leavers with disabilities are urging local politicians to support their call for the reversal of a Government decision to cut services for these “vulnerable” children.

A total of 76 school leavers with disabilities in the west will be affected by insufficient funding to provide a five-day adult service as had been the case for such young people over the years, say parents. It could be reduced to two or three days which is totally unacceptable, they maintain. They fear their children will regress with the loss or reduction of support services.

Mary Neylon - whose 18-year-old son Seamus has autism, moderate to severe learning disability and is non-verbal - says his schooling ceased in June.

The mother of two who lives in Mervue says funding for disability services has been severely cut over the last five years. She believes it is “immoral” that the State would choose to cut services to the “most vulnerable in society.

“The State is refusing to consider other options to achieve budgetary savings. I don’t accept that my son should be denied an adult day service because of economic mismanagement: the choice before the State is not an economic one, but rather a moral one.

“My son does not have the same range of options as ‘regular’ school leavers. Being non-verbal he has learned to communicate using the ‘Picture Exchange Communication System PECS’ and LÁMH sign language. Before this he found it extremely difficult to communicate and engaged in very distressing, challenging, and often self-injurious, behaviour. It is essential he receives a full time adult day service in September to include all the therapies and supports as recommended by the professionals.”

Catherine Moloney, a mother of two from Roscahill, says her son needs a specialist day service to follow the special school from which he graduated in June.

“Our son Conor has autism as well as a number of other complex needs. Despite these challenges Conor can light up a room with his smile. We have been offered a reduced day service which is nowhere near what he requires or what was recommended for him by numerous specialists. Without this vital support he will inevitably regress, he will lose the memory of the crucial life skills, and basic, essential communication skills he gained thanks to the tremendous dedication and skill of his specialist teachers.”

She says special needs parents are in limbo.

“It is an outrageous scandal, an affront against our weakest citizens, our children, who deserve rights and dignity and should not be treated in this way. As I write this letter we are hearing news of funding for others in Dublin and Cork, which coincidently are the heartlands of Minister of Health James Reilly and Minister for State for Disability Kathleen Lynch. We are delighted for those families who had gone through this hell but we in the west are still waiting, with no word.”

Labour TD for Galway West Derek Nolan says there are children across Galway who have left school this year and have no idea as to what level of service they will have. “This is an unacceptable situation and is causing untold worry for families across Galway.”

He said there was a recurring dispute taking place between the Department of Health, the HSE and the service providers regarding the funding of these services. “That must be resolved immediately. This worry and uncertainty must end.”

He has met representatives of the Brothers of Charity, the parents of the affected children, and has had several meetings with Minister Kathleen Lynch and impressed on her the urgent need for a resolution to this issue immediately.

“If the current funding situation pertains some children with severe to profound disabilities will not receive the full five day service that they require. It could be reduced to two or three days. That situation is simply unacceptable and is not one that the parents or I will accept.”

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