Fianna Fáil Education spokesperson Thomas Byrne TD has hit out at the downgrading of commitments made in the Programme for Government regarding In-School Speech and Language Therapy.

He was commenting following receipt of a response to a Parliamentary Question from Minister Richard Bruton which stated that €2 million was to be spent during 2018 on a pilot / demonstration project for in-school therapy services.

Deputy Byrne said, “It was Fianna Fáil that first committed to putting in place new Early Intervention Teams to operate on-site in pre-schools and primary schools. The introduction of multi-disciplinary therapy teams on-site in schools for children with development delays would be a new point of departure for the education of such children with in Ireland.

“The idea was subsequently taken up by other parties and a similar commitment was made in the 2016 programme for Government. However I have to say that it is deeply disappointing that we are only going to see a pilot or demonstration programme this year. It is indicative of the slow pace at which the current Minister operates.

“I am particularly concerned at the use of the phrase “demonstration project” in the answer to the parliamentary question which waters down even the light commitment contained in the Programme for Government.

“It also says something about this Government’s priorities that less will be spent on this much needed development this year than will be spent on the Strategic Communications Unit which is spending €5 million of taxpayers’ money to tell taxpayers how their some of their taxes are being spent.

“At present, young children face extremely long delays in getting access to assessment, diagnosis and treatment for developmental delays. They don’t need further delays from Minster Bruton.”