The Education (Individual Education Plans for Children with Special Needs) Bill 2021 was introduced to the Dáil last week by Cork South Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire.
As Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for education, Mr Ó Laoghaire said the bill would place an onus on the Department of Education to inspect and report on the quality and prevalence of Individual Education Plans received by children with special educational needs in schools.
The bill was co-signed by Sinn Féin’s disability spokesperson, Pauline Tully TD, and Johnny Guirke, Sinn Féin TD for Meath West.
“The EPSEN Act was signed into law in July 2004. With its signing came great hope for children with special educational needs and their families that they would finally get the support and resources they were entitled to. In 2022, we are still waiting for the EPSEN Act to be fully implemented,” Mr Ó Laoghaire.
“One of the key provisions of EPSEN is that every child with special educational needs should have an Individual Education Plan.
“These are being provided by many schools, however, we know that the non-mandatory nature of this means many children who need an IEP do not have one, and the quality of these varies greatly.”
Mr Ó Laoghaire urged the government to support the bill to make the battle for special educational resources “a thing of the past”.
“The Government has a long way to go to heal the relationships between families of children with special educational needs and the State,” he said.
“Parents are sick and tired of having to fight for an IEP, for an Assessment of Need, for an adequate school place. Everything is a battle.”
The bill has moved to the next stage and will be discussed by TDs in their own time.