HSE funding cuts 'tearing the heart of out the system'

Published 16/08/2014 | 00:00

HSE funding cuts which have seen a three-year-old boy lose his place at the Avalon school in Bray are 'tearing the heart out of the system' according to the Chairperson of the Board of Management at St. Catherine's Special School.

The family of Darragh Sheehy was recently informed that he could not be accomodated at the early intervention centre this September due to a €500,000 cut in HSE funding at St. Catherine's. Although Darragh is being tested for autism, he is still awaiting a diagnosis and so neither can he secure a place in St. Catherine's Special Needs School, which also runs classes at Avalon.

Chairperson of the Board of Management for St. Catherine's Special Needs School, Stephen Donnelly, said that Darragh's place at Avalon had been funded by the HSE and while the three classes run by St. Catherine's at Avalon (funded by the Department of Education) have been retained, these are restricted to children with an official diagnosis of autism.

Aoife Sheehy Clarke and husband Patrick only recently learnt that Darragh, who suffers from a rare genetic chromosome abnormality, also has autism and they are awaiting the official diagnosis.

Stephen said this official diagnosis will mean that Darragh is eligible for a place in St. Catherine's and, following that diagnosis, 'St. Catherine's Special School will do everything it possibly can to accommodate him.'

However, he couldn't say Darragh would be able to remain at Avalon.

'We will do everything possible [once he has a referral for autism] and if we have a place he can have it'.

However, he said that the special needs classes at Avalon will close in 2015 as the schools move to Newcastle.

'We worked hard with the Department of Education to keep Avalon and Woodmount open for an extra year to bring about an orderly close down but at the end of the 2014 school year, all centres will move to Kilmullen Lane.'

He said the situation Darragh now finds himself in is 'very difficult' adding that the HSE cuts are 'tearing the heart out of the system'.

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