Saturday 19 January 2019

Mother of child with special needs vows she'll continue to fight preschool cuts despite 'pause'

Pat and Ciara Reid with daughters Dearbhla (4) and Réiltín (2).
Pat and Ciara Reid with daughters Dearbhla (4) and Réiltín (2).
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

A mother has vowed to keep protesting against proposed cuts to an early education scheme for children with special needs.

Ciara Reid said Children's Minister Katherine Zappone's decision to "pause" the proposed cuts was a "little bit of good news", but it wouldn't halt her campaign.

The proposed cuts meant that parents of young children with special needs would no longer be able to spread their Early Childhood Care and Education scheme (ECCE) hours over an extra year in preschool, under the overage exemption.

Families affected began a campaign to put pressure on Ms Zappone to reverse the decision and last week the minister's department "paused" the planned change pending consultation with parents' groups.

But Ms Reid, who has two daughters, Dearbhla (4) and Réiltín (2), who has special needs, said a "pause is just a pause".

"Everyone is in agreement, it's a pause, it's not the end, there is still the possibility that this is going to be cut," she said.

Katherine Zappone. Photo: Frank McGrath
Katherine Zappone. Photo: Frank McGrath

"Réiltín has Down syndrome, learning difficulties and is profoundly deaf.

"I was hoping to send her to preschool when she's just turning four. Without the overage exemption, there would be pressure for Réiltín to start school next September.

"Not only would we not get a school at such last-minute [notice], but we know it wouldn't be in her best interests.

"Réiltín has cochlear implants. She has only been hearing for eight weeks now but her comprehension is amazing, the difference it has made. But she still has so much to learn, I genuinely don't think she would be suitable for preschool next September."

Irish Independent

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