Stephen Donnelly, Fianna Fáil TD for Wicklow has described Government inaction on St. Catherine’s as insensitive and deeply insulting to Wicklow children with special needs, to their parents and to the staff at St. Catherine’s. Government inaction in response to a request from Donnelly means that key staff could be lost.
St. Catherine’s Special School is outsourcing its transport service from September, in a move that caused deep concerns for parents, escorts and drivers. The parents met with Deputy Donnelly in his Wicklow office on several occasions, and a multitude of issues were raised. Senior staff from KARE, who have in depth knowledge of the transport services for Kildare’s special schools, attended one meeting and significant progress was made. This resulted in a meeting with the school for parents, and the creation of a transport manager role.
However, the escorts, who are critical to the care of the children as they are brought to and from school, have to apply for their jobs on lower wages and other working conditions. Donnelly wrote to both the Ministers for Education and Health, seeking short term funding to allow current escorts to keep their current wages and working conditions, even for a time-limited transition phase.
Not only was such funding not forthcoming, but no response to Donnelly, nor to the school, was issued, even though the request was made two months ago. Speaking from Wicklow, Donnelly said:
“The children, their parents, and the escorts who do such important work, deserve better than this. The announcement of the change of service was badly handled, and caused an awful lot of concern and anger that could have been avoided. A very modest short term funding stream would have allowed the escorts to stay in situ and provide continuity for the children and their parents during this period of disruption. To not even get an response is an insult to ever escort, every parent, every child.
“St. Catherine’s are currently interviewing for the escort roles, and I have appealed again to the Ministers to provide the funding. Let’s see what happens.”