Confirmation that speech and language therapy will continue at Cork school 

Confirmation that speech and language therapy will continue at Cork school 

Minister of State for Disability, Anne Rabbitte TD last week revealed that she had reversed the decision to remove on-site speech and language therapists from special needs schools.

A Cork school has received confirmation that on-site speech and language therapy will continue following concerns about the impact of the Progressing Disability Services (PDS) programme.

Labour Party Local Area Rep for Cork City Peter Horgan said that he has received confirmation that the HSE will keep speech and language therapy on-site at St Columba’s GNS which has a facility for deaf children.

Minister of State for Disability, Anne Rabbitte TD last week revealed that she had reversed the decision to remove on-site speech and language therapists from special needs schools.

In a statement to The Echo, Minister Anne Rabbitte said that she had been engaging with the HSE for a number of weeks in relation to the PDS.

"Working together, we must ensure that the PDS model will deliver vital interdisciplinary supports to children with complex needs and who are attending Special Schools.

“It is in this context that I’ve asked the HSE to pause the removal of therapists from Special Schools while further engagement takes place. We need to ensure children are supported and services are delivered in the most efficient, fair and timely way, which the PDS model will deliver.” 

It comes after concerns were raised on the impact the removal of therapists under the programme would have on those who benefit from on-site services in special needs schools.

Principal of St Columba’s GNS in Douglas, Tríona Fitzgerald was concerned about how the programme would affect her pupils and particularly those who travel long distances each day to attend school.

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

Speaking on the announcement by Minister Rabbitte, Ms Fitzgerald said: “I’m very pleased that somebody is listening and I’m hoping for a good result out of all of it."

Ms Fitzgerald noted how most pupils at the school do live locally but said that she had raised concerns for those who travel significant distances each day to attend the school.

“It was for the 40 children who weren’t living locally that if they had to go to their services near their home address, I felt they would lose time in school.” 

Ms Fitzgerald also welcomed the news that while the implementation of the PDS programme is continuing in Cork, Speech and Language Therapy provision will continue at the school.

The news was confirmed in a letter to the school last week.

“I’m just relieved that common sense prevailed. It’s a practical solution,” she said.

Mr Horgan said that the confirmation will be a “massive relief for parents, for the school community and for the children themselves”.

“I want to pay tribute to the campaign mounted by parents who took up baton to fight for their children’s services. It is their victory,” he said.

“Credit must also go to Minister Anne Rabbitte who called a halt to a bad policy and to my colleagues Senator Marie Sherlock and Cork East TD Seán Sherlock who fought the case of deaf schools’ place within the Progressing Disability Services model.

“I hope this decision brings comfort to families and restores some confidence in the system. There is still a whole pile of work to do in disability educational provision but this victory shows the importance of fighting your corner.”

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