Bill proposes new supports for students with Down syndrome

Extra services would cost €600,000

Finian McGrath, TD: “I am very angry when I see €3.5 million being spent on expenses in the first six months in the Taoiseach’s department. On the costings we have, my legislation would cost €600,000.”  30-5-07 Photograph: Matt KavanaghThe Independent deputy Finian McGrath following meetings with representatives of the main political parties at Leinster House (Wednesday 30th May)

Finian McGrath, TD: “I am very angry when I see €3.5 million being spent on expenses in the first six months in the Taoiseach’s department. On the costings we have, my legislation would cost €600,000.” 30-5-07 Photograph: Matt KavanaghThe Independent deputy Finian McGrath following meetings with representatives of the main political parties at Leinster House (Wednesday 30th May)

 


Just a fraction of the €3.5 million in expenses spent by the Taoiseach’s department in the first six months of the year could greatly improve the educational services offered to children with Down syndrome, an Independent TD has claimed.

More than doubling the one-to-one educational services provided to them would cost a “minuscule” €600,000 but would have a major impact, said Finian McGrath.

The TD who is part of the technical group in the Dáil has put a Bill before the House proposing that all students with Down syndrome receive the maximum amount of resource teaching hours available for children with a disability.

At the moment, Down syndrome students with a moderate disability get about two resource hours; those with a mild disability have no guaranteed resource allocation, but can receive other learning supports.

The maximum allocation for any learning disability is four hours and 15 minutes a week. His proposed Bill would raise the entitlement of any Down student to this level.

“I am very angry when I see €3.5 million being spent on expenses in the first six months in the Taoiseach’s department. On the costings we have, my legislation would cost €600,000,” Mr McGrath said.

“They told me they can’t find the money but they could find the money for expenses. The gap in the cost between the two [resource hours allocation] is about €600,000. For this minuscule amount of money you could turn around children’s lives.”

Down Syndrome Ireland supported the Bill and had advised Mr McGrath, who has an adult child with Down syndrome.

“Research will show it would be of immense benefit for the students and gives them a strong base going forward in the education system,” said Pat Clarke, chief executive of Down Syndrome Ireland.

“They will be more independent and less dependent in society.” He said studies showed that children who didn’t get the resource hours tended to regress and often end up in the moderate disability range.

Mr McGrath’s Bill was put before the House in the last few days before the summer recess.