Parents’ bid to get grant for son with special needs

THE parents of a boy, aged 4, submitted a com- plaint to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), raising concerns that their child, who was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder and a moderate intellectual disorder, had been refused at short notice a Home Tuition Grant (HTG) for the coming school year, as the Department of Education& had stated that a placement was available for him in a mainstream primary school.

The complaint contend- ed the placement in the school was unsuitable for the child’s needs as he was a non-verbal child, not yet toilet-trained, suffered from a feeding disorder and had temper and screaming tantrums when agitated and frustrated.

The complainants stated that the primary school was over 25 miles away from the family home and unfeasible for their son at his stage of development.

The parents contended that the removal of the grant would have a serious adverse effect on the child’s development. The redress sought by the complainants in this case was the approval of a HTG for their son for at least another year.

INVESTIGATION: Following receipt of the complaint, the OCO initiated a preliminary examination and wrote to the Department of Education & Science, seeking an outline of their understanding of this particular case.

Given concerns raised by the parents regarding the distance of the school and the travel arrange- ments for this child, the OCO sought confirmation that the school selected, 25 miles away, was the nearest suitable school and if the child was entitled to school transport. The OCO queried if any other school nearer to the child was considered.

OUTCOME: The change management unit of the Department of Education stated it was their belief that the HTG had been approved, despite correspondence from the department which stated the grant had been refused. The following day, the complainants phoned the OCO to state the HTG had been granted for the school year and the payment was backdated.

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