Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Niamh Smyth says parents of children with disabilities have been contacting her offices in despair, following a decision by the Minister for Children & Youth Affairs to cut the Over Age Exemption in the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme.
The exemption provides an additional year on the ECCE scheme to children with disabilities to prepare them before they begin primary school.
“This over age exemption allowed children with disabilities additional time to get themselves ready for primary school. The transition from a childcare setting to a school environment can be daunting, and children with disabilities can experience extra anxiety when encountering changes. This exemption was designed to help them with that and to give them some extra time and space to adapt”, explained Deputy Smyth.
“I have had a number of very worried parents in Cavan, Kingscourt, Shercock and Bailieborough contact my office – they feel completely abandoned by the Government. This exemption was brought in for a very specific reason, but the decision to withdraw it has not been fully explained.
“One of the parents who was in touch is planning to take out a credit union loan so that she can pay for the additional year of care herself because she realises that her child is simply not ready to start primary school.
“All of the parents expressed serious concerns that their children would struggle in a primary school setting without having the additional ECCE year. They, understandably, want the best for their children and cannot understand why this important bridge between childcare and school is being taken away.
“I am urging Minister Katherine Zappone to reconsider this retrograde step and to continue with the overage age exemption in the ECCE to ensure that children with disabilities have access to the assistance they need to adapt to a new school setting”.