A mother whose daughter with special needs is unable to start Montessori school on Monday because nursing support hours have not been approved to assist the child in the classroom, has vowed to fight for her child’s right to education.
Four-year-old Willow Carroll from outside Navan, Co Meath had secured a preschool place under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, under which the State pays participating playschools and day care services a set amount per child in return for providing a free preschool service.
Her mother, Tracy Carroll, had worked with the Munchkins Montessori School over a number of months, and funding for the necessary equipment at the premises had been approved.
However, the HSE Meath Disability Service, in a letter to her in recent days, said the application for nursing support hours was refused for reasons including an apparent failure to sign the application correctly. Ms Carroll claims the application was submitted on her behalf by Enable Ireland.
The mother of two said she was “furious” at being told this just days ahead of the start of term.
The HSE and Enable Ireland said that while they could not comment on individual cases, they would follow up directly with the family “as a matter of urgency”.
The Ombudsman for Children confirmed it had received a complaint on the issue and was looking into it.
Willow Carroll has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and was sent home with palliative care after she was born in December 2016, her mother said. Although peg fed and unable to talk, she is now ready for school.
Ms Carroll said the system was discriminatory against children with special needs whose parents had to fill out endless applications and beg for funding just so their children could access schooling.
"We had everything in place. ECCE approved the place for Willow and Fiona Rochford was only too delighted to take her at Munchkins Montessori where her older brother Noah went.
“I worked for months with the school and Aims getting everything in place that Willow needed and I was told the necessary paperwork was filed to facilitate Willow with the necessary 15 hours’ nursing support at the school.
“We were all so excited to see her start at Munchkins and her teacher Fiona had even bought a My Generation doll in a wheelchair to teach the other children about diversity and inclusion,” she said.
“Last Thursday afternoon after days of being sent from Billy to Jack in phone calls, I finally received an email to say that Willow wasn’t getting the hours... I was also told I needed a home care package in place to get the hours; I wasn’t told this before,” she added.
“Willow has a life-limiting condition. She fights every single day to survive so why should she have to fight for her basic right to education?
“Other mums may just give up after constant battles for their child but this has put a fire in my belly. I will stop at nothing to get my child an education and be the voice for others against what I think is a system that is too complex, pen pushing and discriminatory against children with special needs.”