THE cuts in resources for Donegal special needs students were today condemned by Independent MEP Marian Harkin as a ‘heartless and uncaring gesture by a government which has allowed the austerity axe to fall in the worst possible place’.
“From September 2013, Donegal’s overall resource hours for special needs children at primary and secondary level will decline by 521 hours per year,” Harkin noted.
She said that “Minister Quinn said ahead of the 2012 Budget that ‘there will be no reductions in the overall number of Special Needs Assistants (SNA) or Resource Teachers in this budget'”.
“These words have proved to be disingenuous and misleading, for while the number of special needs teachers in Donegal will decrease only slightly (1%), we know that the average increase in the number of students requiring special needs assistance in 2013 is 10% nationwide.
“Therefore students in Co. Donegal, as elsewhere, who require special needs assistance will see a significant reduction in the help available to them
“Cuts in a time of recession are inevitable, but a reduction of this magnitude in resource hours for these Donegal students is simply unacceptable. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) justifies the cuts by saying that special needs staff resources have been maintained at ‘Celtic Tiger standards’ and arguing that all sectors of society are ‘being asked to do more with less’ in the current economic climate.
“However, the one group of people who we can say with absolute certainty cannot do more with less is young children with special needs, starting their lives and education. Every hour of special education these Donegal students miss limits their life chances. Parents know this, teachers know this, and the NCSE must surely know this.
“It is a heartless and cruel comment to suggest that these children can do more with less,” Harkin concluded.