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Ombudsman welcomes Government focus on special education

The Ombudsman for Children has said it is promising that Taoiseach Simon Harris has prioritised children with the appointment of a super junior minister in special education and the establishment of a Cabinet subcommittee on children, disability and education.

Dr Niall Muldoon said it was his priority to ensure that every child with special education needs will have a school place this September and that adequate services for them are being provided in school.

“The big one is the assessment of needs. For many years we’ve been fighting to get sufficient assessment of needs done for all children with disabilities,” Dr Muldoon said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News At One, Dr Muldoon added: “We’re so far behind. We’ve more than 10,000 children waiting for assessments of needs. We need to find a situation which we provide the services almost ahead of the assessment and diagnosis.”

“We have children who need the services,” he said.

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Dr Muldoon outlined that while a child does not require an assessment of needs to access HSE services, there needs to be a coordinated approach between them and the Department of Education – who are pursuing a different approach.

“They need to move forward with the Department of Education who are also trying a separate tact where they move children to give them education in a way that doesn’t need the assessment of needs.

“But again, they’re making workarounds, as opposed to providing a coordinated service across education and across health so that the child is the centre,” Dr Muldoon said.

“At the moment, they’re all doing what they need for their services as opposed to what the child needs from their services and that’s what we need the cooperation for,” he added.

Dr Muldoon explained that there are “limited” resources across both the public and private sectors to address the current backlog, but that Minister for Disability Anne Rabbitte is working to provide assessments to children who are still waiting.

“She’s looking at every possible opportunity to provide assessments for these children through assessment hubs, bringing in private providers and making sure that the child is given the quickest possible assessment, but the most thorough assessment as well.

“It is going to be a challenge but that’s why I’m so encouraged by the fact they’re all going to be around the table together chatting to find the answer to this challenge,” Dr Muldoon said.

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