Parents settle action over lack of access to July teaching scheme
Department agrees to make payment equivalent to the sum paid to qualifying families
The Minister provides funding for children accepted into the scheme for tuition during July, delivered either at their homes or at certain recognised schools. File image: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Separate legal actions over the Minister for Education’s refusal to allow two young children with complex educational needs attend school during the summer holidays have been settled.
The High Court actions were taken on behalf of two primary school children with various educational and social needs.
As a result of an agreement between the parties, the children will receive additional schooling under a special scheme operated by the Minister known as the July Provision Scheme (JPS).
The children have been attending mainstream schools and, to ensure they did not regress over the summer holidays, their families attempted to enrol them in the JPS.
The Minister provides funding for children accepted into the scheme for tuition during July, delivered either at their homes or at certain recognised schools.
The children’s applications were refused on grounds neither had a specific diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder or a severe or profound general learning disability. According to the scheme’s guidelines, only children with those diagnoses are eligible for inclusion in the scheme.
The families claimed the decisions not to include the children was irrational, unreasonable and breached the children’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. They also claimed the refusals, given the children’s needs, were contrary to the 1998 Education Act.
At the High Court on Wednesday, Nuala Butler SC, instructed by the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), for the parents, said both cases had been settled with an agreed order for costs.
Counsel said 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.
Funds could be used for home tuition or to access some other suitable scheme and the families would receive the payment before July of each year until the children reached the age of 18, she said.
Payment, she added, would continue as long as the JPS does. If that scheme was abolished, the families would have the right to apply under any new scheme.
Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who previously granted permission to bring the challenges, said he was delighted there was a settlement as it would have been difficult for the case to have been dealt with before July. He told the parents involved it would have been a shame if the children had lost out on another year of the course.
Their lawyers had done a very good job for them and the Minister had also, in fairness, met the case very well in terms of the settlement, the judge added.