Parents concerned over withdrawal of services at St Augustine’s school

HSE calls meeting with St John of God, which runs school for teenagers with special needs

The Health Service Executive was made aware of parents’ concerns over the planned closure of the life skills and vocational training programmes at St Augustine’s in Blackrock, Dublin. SJOG chief executive John Pepper has promised to meet with parents

The Health Service Executive was made aware of parents’ concerns over the planned closure of the life skills and vocational training programmes at St Augustine’s in Blackrock, Dublin. SJOG chief executive John Pepper has promised to meet with parents

 

The Health Service Executive has summoned St John of God (SJOG) officials to a meeting over their plans to withdraw services at a school of teenagers with intellectual disabilities in south Dublin.

The meeting was called after parents from St Augustine’s school in Blackrock expressed concern about the cutbacks proposed by SJOG.

The order plans to withdraw the life skills programme from the end of June, and to phase out a vocational training programme over two years. St Augustine’s has 162 students with special needs such as autism and Down syndrome.

A HSE spokeswoman said it was recently made aware of the concerns expressed by parents. As a result, it has called SJOG community services chief executive John Pepper to an urgent meeting today. Mr Pepper has undertaken to meet with parents and interested parties after meeting the HSE, she said.

The planned changes at the school, which is highly regarded, has caused concern among politicians, who parents have lobbied over the past week.

SJOG has said the programmes are being withdrawn because of a significant reduction in funding and a requirement to prioritise resources in adult services. A number of residential centres run by the order for adults have to be upgraded after being the subject of strong criticism by the Health Information and Quality Authority.

The changes at St Augustine’s will see 26 staff redeployed within the organisation.

Parents say they are devastated by the impending closure of the two services, which they say are vital for their children’s life skills and their chance of living independently in the future.

Spokesman Peter McKenna said there was no meaningful consultation within the school or on its board of management before the decision was announced. Two SJOG representatives on the school board had since resigned, he said.

Mr McKenna said parents understood the challenges faced by SJOG but the interests of the children had to be paramount. He called for the changes to be suspended pending a review in consultation with families .

SJOG spent €23,000 sending six staff to the 2016 Catholic Health Assembly at a hotel in Florida earlier this month, the Irish Mail on Sunday reported.