Father pleads for U-turn on SNAs

The father of a little girl with autism has pleaded with the Government to reverse SNA cuts at her special school.

Stuart O’Mahony was among a group of 30 parents who marched through Cork City yesterday over proposed cuts in special needs assistant (SNA) numbers, and also cuts to the domiciliary care allowance and carer’s allowance.

Mr O’Mahony said government plans to axe four of 16 SNAs from his four-year-old daughter Amy’s school, Sonas Special Junior School in Carrigaline, would have a devastating effect on her and other pupils.

Our message to Joan Burton and Ruairi Quinn is quite simple, he said: “Leave our kids alone. They are special kids and they shouldn’t be paying the price for the mistakes of government.”

The school received recognition from the department in 2003 as a school for children with autism. It caters for children, aged three to six.

Cutbacks mean it is set to lose one quarter of its SNAs from September. Mr O’Mahony said the SNAs played a vital role in his daughter’s education.

They help Amy with her “transition” in to the school building every morning, and help her develop social and interpersonal skills.

Losing one quarter of the SNAs would set her back years, he said, and have a devastating effect on the school.

The parents marched with their kids from City Hall to the Department of Education offices on South Mall where they handed in a letter of protest.

Sinn Féin Cllrs Henry Cremin and Chris O’Leary joined the march. Mr O’Leary said: “Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney hired a special adviser recently whose salary would cover the pay for these four SNAs for two years.”

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