Monday 19 August 2019

Special needs pupils get summer school access in settlement

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Tim Healy

Two High Court actions over the Education Minister's refusal to allow two young children with complex educational needs to attend school during the summer holidays have been settled.

The actions were taken on behalf of two primary school children, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, who both have various educational and social needs.

As a result of an agreement reached between the parties, the children at the centre of the action will receive additional schooling under a special scheme operated by Education Minister Joe McHugh, known as the "July Provision Scheme".

The children have been attending mainstream schools.

In order to ensure that they did not regress over the long summer holidays, their families had attempted to enrol them in the July Provision Scheme.

Under the scheme, the minister provides funding for tuition during the month of July, which is delivered either at their homes or at certain recognised schools.

The applications were refused on the grounds that the children did not have the specific diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, or a severe or profound general learning disability.

The families had claimed that the decisions not to include them in the 2019 scheme was irrational, unreasonable and was in breach of the children's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The families sought orders quashing the minister's decisions declining to enrol the children into the July Provision Scheme.

At the High Court yesterday, Nuala Butler SC instructed by lawyers for the Free Legal Advice Centres, for the parents, said both cases had been settled with an agreed order for costs.

Counsel said that the department had agreed to make payment equivalent to the sum paid to families who qualify for home-based July provision under the current scheme.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who had previously granted the families permission to bring the challenges, said he was delighted that there had been a settlement, as it would have been difficult for the case to have been dealt with before July.

He told the parents involved in both cases, who were in court, that it would have been a shame if the children had lost out on another year of the course.

He said that their lawyers had done a very good job for them and that the minister had, in fairness, met the case very well in terms of the settlement.

Irish Independent

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