Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD has said the Government’s proposals on in-school speech and language therapy lack any specific detail on how children involved will actually benefit and what exactly is the nature of therapies to be provided.

Deputy Byrne said the extremely limited plans appear to suggest that teachers, parents and school staff will receive support to assist in the area of SLT and occupational therapy, but not primarily the pupils directly themselves.

Deputy Byrne said, “The Fine Gael led administration merely wishes to introduce what it terms a ‘demonstration project’ on a pilot basis that appears to train teachers to help pupils, but this doesn’t go far enough at all.

“At present, children are not getting the speech and language and occupational therapy needed from the State. This is resulting in delays in getting therapy and is further frustrating emotional, behavioural, and academic development problems.

“The proposals announced on Monday are a start. However, they may have little or no impact on the massive waiting lists for children needing speech, language and occupational therapy. We need a real alternative which involves the actual integration of SLT and other therapists in pre-schools, and schools, working one-on-one with children.

“This requires resources, but first and foremost it requires a vision and a step by step plan as to how to roll this out. Fianna Fáil has committed to this in our manifesto and will insist on such a plan to be rolled out nationally that would also include psychologists and physiotherapists coming into schools.

“Pilot projects that involved SLTs providing children with therapy in schools, have actually already happened in the state. They were carried out in Limerick and in west Tallaght, yielding very positive results among the children who took part.

“Management of the new Government pilot should also involve more than one agency besides the National Council for Special Education. It is not clear if they have the expertise required to deal with this matter as special education it is not the same thing at all. We need an efficient collaboration to ensure that an in-school model of SLT complements external clinical practice.

“Comprehensively embedding multi-disciplinary health services in an educational setting would be a cost-effective service that helps thousands of children in great need,” concluded Deputy Byrne.