Worry over impact of roll-out of Progressing Disability Services programme on schools 

Worry over impact of roll-out of Progressing Disability Services programme on schools 

Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme (PDS) is changing the way services and supports are provided across the country.

CONCERNS are being voiced over the potential impact of the roll-out of the Progressing Disability Services programme on special schools.

Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme (PDS) is changing the way services and supports are provided across the country.

It aims to provide fairer access to services for all children with a disability and aligns with objectives of the Sláintecare Report to provide the majority of care at or as close to home as possible and to create an integrated system of care.

Under the changes and the rollout of the programme, services would be provided in a community setting as opposed to a school setting.

Children’s Disability Network Teams (CDNT) are being established to provide services and supports for all children with complex needs within a defined geographic area.

Cork TD and Sinn Féin spokesperson on education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said he is “extremely concerned” about the implications of the rollout of the programme on special schools.

“I am extremely concerned about the implications this could have. I am hearing from many within the special education community that they are worried that children with special educational needs will now have reduced access to therapies and services, and that this may cause regression.”

Mr Ó Laoghaire said that many special schools across the country have been in touch regarding “grave concerns that they will be stripped completely of all in-school supports”.

Cork principal concerns 

Tríona Fitzgerald is principal of St Columba’s GNS in Douglas, which has a facility for deaf children.

She said that some pupils travel significant distances to the school each day and expressed concern about the potential loss of school time as a result of the changes.

“I think some children coming from far away, aren’t going to come to school the day they have their speech and language session and that’s a day lost at school,” she said.

“If that happens once a week, I just can’t see it being practical whereas the child can have the half-hour session in the school and go back to class and there’s no time wasted and the child isn’t exhausted,” she added.

Currently, children attend speech and language therapy with a therapist who comes to the school in what Ms Fitzgerald described as a “seamless” system.

She said that she recognises some of the potential benefits but for hearing impaired children, speech and language therapy is particularly important and required regularly.

“It’s probably an admirable aim and I’m not saying it’s a bad one, but I just think as it’s rolling out, there’s collateral and children who are deaf and hard of hearing are the collateral damage of it.”

Assurances from HSE 

The HSE has assured that under PDS, transition plans will be developed with families and special schools to ensure a smooth and safe transition from what is often a unidisciplinary service into the multidisciplinary team over a defined period of time. 

“We are working to ensure there is a continuation of services for the children who are deaf or hard of hearing attending specials schools and that safe and effective transition plans are put in place and carried out in an appropriate way in full consultation and collaboration with all stakeholders.”

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