The HSE has rejected the Let Me, Be Me Campaign's Threshold of Decency Statement.
The statement called for the retention of St Agnes’ Special Needs Pre-School, Donegal Town and a commitment to retain Ballaghderg Special Needs Pre-School, Letterkenny beyond 2015.
A number of other measures were proposed.
In a statement to Highland Radio this evening LMBM said:
Earlier this week, representatives of the Let Me, Be Me Campaign received a letter from HSE in response to the Threshold of Decency Statement. It is with great disappointment that the campaign can now reveal that the proposal has been rejected.
The Threshold of Decency Statement was signed by over 40 public representatives and key members of the medical profession in County Donegal. The shared call for action, which received widespread support from parents and childcare providers predominantly called for:
- The retention of St Agnes’ Special Needs Pre-School, Donegal Town including the immediate re-opening of enrolment
- A commitment to retain Ballaghderg Special Needs Pre-School, Letterkenny beyond 2015 and into the future
- A commitment to carry out an assessment of need in the Inis Eoghain region in consultation with mainstream childcare providers and parents of children with special educational needs with a view to establishing an add-on specialist pre-school unit to an existing childcare facility
- As the first steps to inclusion, activate the recommendations of the Framework for Action for the Inclusion of Children with Special Needs in ECCE Settings (DES, 2010) prior to the closure of existing services.
Firstly, the HSE response confirmed that they plan to go ahead with the closure of St Agnes Special Needs Pre-School Donegal Town next near and that no new enrolments will be accepted for September 2013. HSE have stated that mainstreaming work has been ongoing between HSE, parents and mainstream pre-school providers in 2011-12 to accommodate this. Despite our best efforts, we can find little evidence of this having taken place.
The letter states that the work carried out in South Donegal will then be used to inform an overall countywide approach to mainstreaming children with disabilities across the county. This indicates the closure of Ballaghderg Special Needs Pre-School– most likely as initially scheduled for 2015.
Parents involved in the campaign are understandably disillusioned and greatly saddened by this response. They claim that they feel a sense of abandonment on behalf of themselves and their children.
The implications of HSE going ahead with this policy to mainstream children with disabilities, some of whom have severe and complex needs, will have massive consequences for children, parents and mainstream childcare providers across County Donegal.
- For children with the most complex needs, the only available option will be home care packages, denying them their right to an education. This is a fundamental breech of a child’s right to education to enable him or her to reach their full potential. In these cases, parents of children will receive no respite in terms of caring for their children.
- The mainstream pre-school sector has not been adequately prepared for this significant transition. There has been no national policy or implementation plan regarding inclusion brought forward by Government that pertains to the early childhood sector.
Mainstream childcare providers have identified almost 100 children across County Donegal who are currently in early childhood services without additional supports for individual learning and development needs. They have openly admitted that they are struggling at present and HSE supports are limited or non-existent. They have reported that their views have not been taken on board in any decision regarding the challenges they face in this situation.
Donegal’s Oireachtas members have requested an urgent meeting with the HSE Area Manager Donegal to take place within the next two weeks.