Seanad Éireann - Volume 142 - 02 March, 1995
Adjournment Matters. - Special School Placement.
Mrs. McGennis Mrs. McGennis
Mrs. McGennis: I raised this issue because a father of a young family called to my constituency advice centre last week. He is a lone parent trying to do the best for his family under quite difficult circumstances. He contacted me because he had failed over a period of almost a year and a half to have his son placed in a special school.
Since the child was born the family lived in the inner city where he attended a special school. They moved to the Blanchardstown area because of family problems as it was felt that it would be better if the children moved out of the inner city in the circumstances. Since  they were housed in the Blanchardstown area the father has tried unsuccessfully to have the child placed in a special school. The father insists that the boy does not have a history of disruption but is just in urgent need of special educational facilities.
I hasten to add that I was his last port of call. He may have contacted the Department of Education and I also received a copy of a letter from the local senior social worker who had tried on his behalf five schools which provide the required type of educational facility. The last line of the letter states “To date, none [of the above five schools] have agreed to offer Raymond a place”. There was a chance at one stage that the boy might have been placed in a particular school, but the father later found out that this institution was for badly emotionally disturbed children and those with a history of disruption. Therefore, he decided that it was not an option for his child even if it was offered to him.
I was his last port of call. I cannot believe that in this day and age a child has been left for a year and a half without any opportunity to avail of his constitutional right to an education. Those are the circumstances as the father has outlined them to me and I can only take them at face value. This child at 13 and a half years of age has secured a FÁS placement, to which he may not have been entitled, but at least they have tried to meet some of his needs.
I think that the Minister of State and the Minister for Education, Deputy Bhreathnach, would readily agree that this is the worse possible start in life for a child who has had already suffered the disadvantages of a broken marriage and the associated trauma. They live in an area, which I represent, with 60 per cent unemployment. All Governments realise that a child has absolutely no chance unless they get a basic education which they can take as far as possible. I hope that the Minister of State has good news for me today and I ask that somebody urgently take this matter up in the Department of Education.
Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen) Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen)
 Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen): The boy referred to in Senator McGennis' matter attended Rutland Street national school for two school years from 1985-8 and Marlboro' Street national school from 1987-90. In September 1990 he was enrolled in St. Laurence O'Toole special school, which caters for children who have become involved in minor delinquency and alienated from the mainstream school system. He remained at this school until March 1993.
The boy appeared before the Dublin Juvenile Court in March 1993 on a charge of malicious damage to a motor vehicle. He was referred by the court for a three week assessment to St. Michael's remand and assessment centre, Finglas, from 9 March to 30 March 1993. The assessment process includes medical, social, psychological and educational reports, which enable the court to make informed decisions in each individual case coming before it. In the case of the boy referred to, the assessment report indicated that the boy has severe behavioural difficulties.
The report recommended short term placement in a suitable health board facility. The assessment report also recommended that this be followed by a long term placement in a special school for mildly mentally handicapped boys with behavioural problems. In April 1994, the boy was accepted at the Eastern Health Board short term intervention centre at Warrenstown House. He was discharged from that centre on 12 August 1994. As the boy has not been at school since, the Department's primary inspectorate, in conjunction with the appropriate assessment and referral authorities, is endeavouring to have a suitable long term educational placement made available to him at the earliest possible date.
In this regard a special case conference is to be held at St. Laurence's special school, Finglas, on Monday, 6 March 1995, in an effort to ensure that an appropriate placement will be found, where the boy's educational and other special needs will be met. After that  case investigation takes place next week, the Senator is welcome to contact my Department and I will give her an update on the position. It is a serious case, which needs to be attended to sooner rather than later. I thank the Senator for raising this matter.
Mrs. McGennis Mrs. McGennis
Mrs. McGennis: I am pleased with the Minister's reply, but perhaps he could refer one point to his officials in relation to the special case conference. The legal action mentioned by the Minister involved the area in which they lived and the boy has caused no trouble in school. The father has expressed concern that if the boy is placed in a specific school, the name of which I will give to  the Minister later, his behaviour might get worse instead of improve. In a letter to the father from a constituency colleague from a different party, the public representative stated that the placement in this institution might not help the boy's situation. The father is very concerned, if this specific location is chosen and a placement is found there, that it might make the boy worse rather than improve him. I will give the Minister the name of the institution in private.
Mr. Allen Mr. Allen
Mr. Allen: Perhaps the Senator could give me the details outside the Chamber.
The Seanad adjourned at 4.25 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 March 1995.
Seanad Éireann 142 Adjournment Matters. Special School Placement.