Mother hits out as SNA cuts take away ‘safety net’

A CO CLARE mother of a 14-year old girl with cerebral palsy hit out yesterday at the National Council for Special Education over its decision to cut the hours of her daughter’s Special Needs Assistant (SNA).

Ann Norton said yesterday that the state has taken away the safety net that was in place for her daughter since she entered education by cutting back her SNA’s hours.

Her daughter, Nicole, commenced second year at the Coláiste Muire girls’ secondary school in Ennis on Tuesday and Ms Norton said yesterday that the cut to Nicole’s SNA’s hours has had a terrible impact.

She said: “Nicole has had the same SNA for the last nine years that accompanied her throughout her primary school years and her first year in secondary school. Now she will have multiple SNAs who will not understand her and her needs.”

The multiple SNAs are providing the same number of hours as Nicole had before, with her favoured SNA providing 24 of the 35 hours.

Ms Norton said that Nicole’s disability is complex, pointing out that she is also visually impaired.

“She doesn’t feel safe now going to school because of the uncertainty. Nicole is not sleeping. She’s panicking. She’s asking me ‘how am I going to cope?’ She is 14 and wants to be mixing with her classmates, but the mental impact on her is just massive,” Ms Norton said.

She added: “The SNA cuts are causing huge upset to parents across the country. There is an awful lot of people in the same boat as us. The schools are complaining about the cuts, but the people who are really suffering from this are the children. This is about making cuts to children with special needs and it shouldn’t happen.”

Ms Norton said that the decision by the state’s NCSE “has put Nicole up in a heap. The NCSE has no consideration for her as an individual. Nicole is just a number to them. This is all about cuts.”

She added: “The NCSE has to be accountable for the decisions its makes.”

Ms Norton said that there is not an appeal process to the NCSE decision to have Nicole’s SNA hours shared by a number of SNAs.

She said: “This should be in place, because the decision is final and there is nowhere for us to go or no one to talk to.”

Ms Norton said that the NCSE must revisit its decision and restore the hours of Nicole’s dedicated SNA: “Nicole fights so hard to get over every obstacle. She is among the most vulnerable group in the state and now we are having to fight again when we shouldn’t have to.”

A spokesman for the NCSE declined to comment but said that it would clarify the position with a view to providing an appropriate response.


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