Minister of State for Disability, Anne Rabbitte has confirmed that the HSE has commenced a process to reinstate the health and social care supports in special schools where previously they had been provided.
Therapists were removed from schools to allow for the rollout of the Progressing Disability Services (PDS) plan, sparking concerns among parents of children with disabilities and education providers.
"Having listened to the ongoing concerns of parents of children with complex needs who attend special schools and mindful of this Government’s priority to deliver comprehensive on-site health and social supports to special schools, the HSE was requested to commence the process of allocating further staffing resources to these schools," Ms Rabbitte said.
"This involves the provision of an additional 136 whole time equivalent (WTE) posts, which is on top of the 85 reinstated posts for special schools that I announced in 2021. "This builds on the 290 posts that I have already funded in Budget 2021 and Budget 2022, which the HSE will also continue to recruit to the Children’s Disability Network Teams.
"Since taking up the office of Minister for Disability, I have continuously stated my commitment to the development and enhancement of children’s disability services, through the implementation of the Progressing Disability Services (PDS) Programme.
"We must never lose sight of the fact that these children and their families must remain our focus and every effort must be made in providing the infrastructure to enhance the services offered to them," she continued.
The HSE has submitted a timeframe for the reinstatement of the 136 WTEs, which will be in three phases.
The first two phases will be reassigning existing HSE staff to fill one third of the posts this month and filling a further one third of the posts via existing panels and supported with further reassignment during this month and over the autumn.
In parallel with the first two phases, a number of initiatives will be commenced immediately, including "a high-profile international recruitment campaign" to fill vacant speech and language therapist, occupational therapist and physiotherapy posts.
“I am pleased that the HSE has commenced this process to improve services for children in special schools, but we must also not lose sight of children who receive services through their local Network Teams," Ms Rabbitte said.
“In this regard, I also wish to assure those families that through the PDS Roadmap under development, the Government, the HSE, lead agencies and various other stakeholders will work together in their respective roles to significantly improve services for children and young people with complex disability needs and their families, which includes the continued recruitment of therapists to these teams and I look forward to progressing matters with the HSE on the development of the new PDS Roadmap.”