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ANGER Furious parents say HSE policy 'could kill' special needs kids as therapists removed from school

Parents accuse health body of ignoring Government directive on school

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Carmona school in Dun Laoghaire

Carmona school in Dun Laoghaire

Carmona school in Dun Laoghaire

Furious parents say HSE policy could put their special-needs kids' lives in danger after specialised staff were moved out of their school, despite being told not to do so by the Government.

Many of the 36 children at Carmona school in Dun Laoghaire need help to breathe, are unable to eat by themselves and unable to speak.

Simple things like being unable to clear their throats with a cough can quickly escalate into life-threatening situations, according to parents' spokesman Andrew Murnaghan.

The presence of the specialist staff at the school has meant they can quickly intervene before a situation requires more serious medical attention.

"They're playing Russian Roulette with the health of these children and ever day there's a delay in restoring services is another bullet in the gun," Andrew said.

He explained last June that Junior Minister Anne Rabbitte told parents the HSE had been instructed not to remove therapists from special schools and that they were to be based on site.

"Yet, the HSE have continued to ignore this direction and took steps to remove these vital supports from the school.

"Furthermore, parents are aware that other special schools have, thankfully, retained all of their therapeutic supports on-site - why is Carmona school, which has several children with serious medical conditions being singled out for such inequitable treatment?

"We don't understand how HSE officials are allowed to knowingly and deliberately ignore the direction of the minister and the Taoiseach and put these children at risk?"

In response to a Sunday World query, the HSE said, in fact, services were at the same level as they were before the Covid crisis.

"The allocations of therapists to special schools at the level which existed prior to the Covid pandemic have not been removed from any of the schools in the area."

The changes being made by the HSE are part of a programme to reorganise specialist services which has seen staff transfer from Carmona to Children's Disability Network Teams.

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The effect of the policy so far has caused huge stress and worry for parents who are already caring for highly dependent children.

"Most of these parents are absolutely exhausted, they're at the end of the wits. Having their kids at this school is the only five hours' peace they get in the day," Andrew said.

"It has been a very frustrating experience for me because I have never encountered such bloody indifference."

He also said that after a series of Freedom of Information requests he discovered no-one has checked whether the policy could put kids' lives in danger.

In a statement in July announcing the funding for 85 therapists, Minister Rabbitte explained she had requested the HSE to 'pause' the policy change.

Up until recently, clinicians who provided speech and language, occupational and physiotherapies to children at the school were based on site and were available throughout the school day if required.

Now, as part of the new policy, all on-site clinicians have been moved from Carmona, despite the assurances from the Government that the level of service provided to the 36 children would be maintained.

Speaking in the Dáil this week, Minister Rabbitte said she acknowledged that Carmona "is not a school in the ordinary sense of a school".

She said a meeting will also be scheduled between parents, the CEO of Enable Ireland, the HSE chief officer for the area, the disability head of services, and the CDNT.

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