Public urged to attend special preschools meeting on Monday night

Public urged to attend special preschools meeting on Monday night
The mother of a child attending a specialist special needs preschool is urging members of the public and service providers to attend a public meeting on Monday night to discuss the preschools’ future.

The mother of a child attending a specialist special needs preschool is urging members of the public and service providers to attend a public meeting on Monday night to discuss the preschools’ future.

“The parents of severe-needs children need support, they need help,” said Gina Grant, whose son Francis attends Ballaghderg in Letterkenny.

At the request of parents and service providers, Donegal County Childcare Committee (DCCC) organised a public meeting for 7.30pm Monday, June 10th, at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny.

Gina is one of a number of parents of children with complex needs who have been critical of reported Health Service Executive plans to close specialist special-needs preschools and integrate all children into mainstream preschools. In April, the HSE confirmed that St. Agnes in Donegal town will close next year.

Last month, the HSE said preschool provisions should be provided to the greatest extent possible in mainstream settings, unless a child is assessed as requiring specialist care. The HSE estimated that should apply to no more than 5 per cent of children with a disability.

“Once these services are closed they are closed, and no one knows the future,” Gina said. “I never thought I would be needing such a service for severe disabilities, but I do.”

DCCC held a public consultation last month, asking parents and service providers for their opinion on supports and policies that would be needed if students with special needs were integrated into mainstream preschools. But after the parents of children with complex medical needs addressed the meeting, a number of parents and service providers said they believed the plan was unworkable.

Gina said a large number of Donegal elected representatives have said they would attend Monday night’s meeting. “All the Donegal representatives are behind the parents, but the parents need to come and make their voices heard,” Gina said. “Those that don’t have a voice -- be their voice.”