Support for mother of children with autism


CUTBACKS:TEACHERS’ UNION of Ireland (TUI) delegates yesterday unanimously supported a call from the mother of two children with autism to reverse cutbacks in special needs assistance provision so her sons and others could lead full and active lives.

Jane Johnstone had been invited to address the union congress and outline the impact that cutting special needs assistants at Scoil Mhuire ASD Unit in Wexford was having on her sons Evan (12) and Daniel (8).

Ms Johnstone said both Scoil Mhuire and St Senan’s ASD Unit in Enniscorthy had lost 11 special needs assistants as a result of the cutbacks, and these cutbacks were having a real and severe impact not just on children with autism but on their families.

Afterwards, Ms Johnstone and another parent, Helene O’Leary, met Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and handed him a letter detailing their concerns. He promised to get back in touch with them once he had a chance to consider the letter.

Yesterday also saw delegates back a call for congress to negotiate for a voluntary transfer scheme on a national basis where a teacher who wished to move from one part of the country could do so without any break in service or change to their contract.

Michael Martin of Monaghan said the motion was aimed at rectifying an inequality whereby some teachers for various personal reasons could not reside where they were working and ended up travelling long distances and sometimes staying overnight.

Union deputy general secretary Annette Dolan said discussions had begun with management bodies and the Department of Education on introducing a voluntary transfer scheme, but they were unlikely to be concluded in time for introducing such a scheme next September.

Meanwhile, Ms Dolan welcomed an announcement by Mr Quinn that he plans to repeal section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998 which the union had argued discriminated against lesbian, gay and bisexual teachers.

Ms Dolan noted that Mr Quinn had acknowledged that under current equality legislation schools were allowed to claim hiring a homosexual, lesbian or bisexual teacher would undermine their religious ethos, and he wanted to stamp out such discrimination.