Post Updated July 10th 2020
We are delighted to let you know that the Department of Education and Skills has this evening confirmed that the eligibility for the Summer Provision Programme has been extended to include ALL children with Down syndrome. Today, this includes children transitioning from preschool into mainstream primary school. The Government has also approved the inclusion of children with Down syndrome who are attending post primary school in the home-based strand of the Programme.
Deidre Saul, Interim CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland said: “After years of lobbying, all children with Down syndrome will now have access to the Summer Provision Programme. All children with Down syndrome have complex learning needs and will now have the support they need during the Summer months to prepare for their return to education. We are very grateful to the Minister for Education Norma Foley and the Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan and the full Cabinet for their support.
“We would also like to take the opportunity to than each and every parent who contacted their local TDs and had their voices heard – together are voices are stronger.”
Post updated on July 6th 2020
Down Syndrome Ireland has welcomed the Cabinet’s decision to widen the eligibility criteria for Summer Provision 2020 to include post-primary students with Down syndrome.
Deirdre Saul, Interim CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland: “We are absolutely delighted that the Government has listened to our concerns and the concerns of parents of children with Down syndrome and acted. Some 670 children with Down syndrome will benefit directly as a result of today’s Cabinet decision. We are very grateful to Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan for their support.
“Today’s decision is a stepping stone to ensure that all students with complex learning needs will be supported to reach their full potential on their educational journey.
“However, we still have concerns that children transitioning from pre-school to mainstream primary school will still not be eligible for the Programme.”
The charity’s Interim CEO Deirdre Saul and Head of Education Fidelma Brady are meeting the Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD to firstly welcome the decision but also to outline our concerns and continue our efforts to have all children with Down syndrome included in the Summer Provision Programme.
Ms Saul continued: “We congratulate all the organisations and families involved in this long campaign and for having their voices heard.”
You can read the full press release from the Department of Education and Skills’.
Post Updated on July 1 2020
Thank you for your active engagement with us on the issue of the Summer Provision Programme. We have been asking your views through surveys and would like to give you some feedback on what you told us and how we used the information you gave to continue to lobby for all children with Down syndrome to be included in the scheme, as was origionally announced by the then Minister for Education Joe McHugh on June 5th.
Initially, we asked you whether you would even be interested in summer provision this year. We were unsure how people would feel given the anxiety around Covid 19, and the restrictions that might be in place.
86% of people who responded to the initial survey said yes, they would be interested. Provided this could be done safely, Summer (July) Provision was seen as a good first step to get students back into the classroom and used to being with their friends again.
However, you were concerned about whether the school would be a safe environment for your child, and also about whether your child would be able to easily adjust to going back to school after such a long break. Parents of children who were at a transition stage were particularly concerned, as there are additional worries and changes to navigate.
This information was helpful in discussions with the then Minister and the Department of Education. We knew that you were eager to send children back to school. We were delighted when the announcement came on June 5th that children with Down syndrome would be included in the scheme this year, then blindsided by the realisation that yet again, some children would be excluded.
We continued to meet with the Department to try to resolve this, and we were offered access to funds to run our own programme for students with Down syndrome in post primary school, which in itself is an acknowledgement that these students have been unfairly excluded.
We surveyed members last week to ask whether we should take these funds and the responsibility which comes with them to provide branch-led education programmes for post primary students. Only 25% of people believed that we should take the funds. 30% were unsure, many commenting that they didn’t want to be saying no, as their child was already eligible for the scheme. However, 45% of people strongly believed we should refuse the funds. Many of the people saying no had children who were not currently eligible for the scheme, but even so felt that this compromise solution was unacceptable.
Here are some of the responses we received from parents:
- It is the Department’s responsibility to deliver this scheme fully for all children with Down syndrome. They are abdicating their responsibility in this regard and trying to use DSI with this token funding offer to cover-up their unjustifiable position.
- This is yet another broken commitment by State on the supports promised to children with Down syndrome and their parents. It is an indictment of our society how our most vulnerable are consistently under supported to achieve their potential.
- If we accept (the money) they will just push this issue on to DSI and it should be run or facilitated by the State as it is for those with autism. This is pure discrimination and exclusion.
- The Government should be providing July Provision for ALL children with DS, regardless if they’re in special schools, mainstream, primary or post primary. They should not be shifting responsibility to DSI. Again, as always, our children are discriminated against and it’s disgraceful.
Had we accepted the grant, as well as absolving the Department from responsibility for these students, we would have disregarded the needs of other children. Those transitioning from preschool to mainstream primary school would still have been excluded, as would children in primary school who found that their school was not participating and are unable to find a tutor or an SNA to deliver the home tuition programme. (Children with Down syndrome in primary school whose school are not participating in the Summer Provision Programme will still be eligible for home tuition. Some parents have reported to us difficulties in finding a tutor or SNA.)
Your response to the survey enabled us to go back to the Department and to the new Minister and say no, this is a rights based issue. Students with Down syndrome need the same access to the Summer Provision Scheme as other students with complex educational needs.
This is a decision that we welcome. Down Syndrome Ireland are not education providers, and we should not be trying to prop up a scheme which is discriminating against our members. We will continue to support parents in the next steps they intend to take to see that this discriminatory decision by the department is reversed immediately and ensure that all children with Down syndrome, regardless of education setting, are included in the State programme of Summer Provision 2020.
We have already contacted the new Minister for Education Norma Foley (Email: email@example.com ) and the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality & Integration Roderic O’Gorman (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ) on your behalf to ask them to review the decisions.
Special Oireachtas Committee on Covid 19 on the issue of education
We also drafted a Submission to the Special Oireachtas Covid Response Committeeon this issue of education and included Questions for The Ministerwhich took place on Thursday and contacted each of the TDs on that committee looking for their support on the issue.
During that Committee meeting, Committee member and current Minister for Education Norma Foley expressed her disappointment on this issue, stating that the Summer Provision Programme as announced by the then Minister on June 5th was not the one currently outlined by the Department.
We’re acutely aware that today is July 1st and as yet we have no clarity or update from the Department of Education.
We need your help!
Together our voices are stronger. We need to keep the pressure on, so we encourage you to contact the relevant Ministers as well as your local TDs (you can find them here: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/members/tds/) if you haven’t already, and let them know that this scheme is discriminatory, and that we will not be bought off. Students with Down syndrome have complex educational needs and should be given full access to schemes which will support them.
We will keep you updated as soon as we have an update.
DSI voices distress on behalf of parents about backtracking over Summer Provision programme (July Provision)
Down Syndrome Ireland has said parents have described the Government’s changing positions on the Summer Provision Programme as a ‘shambles’ and have called for an immediate resolution of the matter.
The charity outlined that on June 5th, the Minister for Education & Skills, Mr Joe McHugh opened the Summer Provision programme for this year to include children with Down syndrome, a move which was greatly welcomed by DSI and parents around the country.
DSI Interim CEO Deirdre Saul said: “The Minister made no distinction between those attending pre-school, primary school and those attending post primary school. We, alongside some 1,000 parents of students with Down syndrome around the country were completely blindsided when the Department of Education then chose to publish restrictions on who could access the programme the following week.”
The DES draft Guidelines on Summer Provision outlines that the scheme is not open to the majority of post-primary school students, nor to students transitioning from preschool into mainstream primary schools. Despite the lip service paid to promoting an inclusive education system, those children heading to mainstream primary school will be penalised rather than supported, as will those in mainstream post-primary.
Ms Saul continued: “This has caused untold stress to parents of children with Down syndrome. There seems to be a complete disconnect between the Minister and Department officials, and it is students with Down syndrome who are caught in the middle. It’s shocking and deeply distressing.”
The charity has been campaigning for all children with Down syndrome to have access to the Summer Provision programme (July Provision) for a number of years as it says in limiting the scheme the Government failed to respond to the educational needs of children with Down syndrome. Until now, July Provision has provided access to an extended school year only for children with autism and children with a severe or profound intellectual disability. As a result, many children with Down syndrome were not eligible for the programme, despite having complex educational needs.
A parent said: “I’m absolutely horrified that government are now discriminating between primary and secondary students with Down syndrome. It beggars belief.”
Since March, DSI – along with other disability groups – has been involved in multiple conversations and consultations with the Department of Education on the matter.
Ms Saul added: “Any deviation from the Minister’s declaration on June 5th is discriminatory. Restricting the scheme to exclude some students with Down syndrome is a form of discrimination that is impossible to understand, particularly given the disruption to education this year.
“There are no justifiable reasons for excluding a significant number of students with Down syndrome from the Summer Provision programme and the proposals need to be reviewed and amended with immediate effect.”
The charity continues to engage daily with the Department of Education & Skills and the Minister’s Office.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Together our voices are stronger.
We are continuing to fight for all students with Down syndrome, without exceptions, to be eligible for the Summer Provision Programme, and we encourage members to contact the Minister and/or your local TD to make your views known.
- Children with Down syndrome attending non – Deis mainstream Post Primary schools availing of home provision; and
- Children with Down syndrome attending Deis post-primary schools availing of home provision if their school is not facilitating a school-based programme?
- Children with Down syndrome transitioning from Pre-School to Mainstream Primary school in September availing of Home Provision
Post updated June 12th 2020
The Minister for Education & Skills, Mr Joe McHugh, has today issued a statement on the Summer Provision Programme, which will replace July Provision this summer.
Deirdre Saul Interim CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland said: “We welcome the publication of the Draft Guidelines and we are particularly pleased to see the changes in direction taken by the Department of Education & Skills, since our consultations last Thursday. The changes relating to Home Provision will be particularly beneficial for our members.
“We do, however, have concerns around certain aspects with, for example, the criteria for those children transitioning from Pre-School to Primary school. While the addition of this group is addressed in the guidelines, the programme must be available for children transitioning to mainstream classes and not just for those children transitioning to a special class. In addition, it is vitally important that both schools and tutors would have guidance on implementing appropriate programmes and activities, and the possibility of training in this regard, for all personnel, must also be addressed.
“While the guidelines do give an overview of the planned provision, a lot more detail is needed and we will continue to engage with the Minster and the officials from the Department to improve the provision, over the coming days.”
In the meantime, the draft guidelines are available, for your information, on the Department website with a PDF version also available for download from the links below.
We will keep you updated with any additional information as we have it over the coming days.
Post updated June 05th 2020
Following on from continuous pressure from Down Syndrome Ireland, other disability groups and parents, Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD has confirmed to Down Syndrome Ireland that all children with Down syndrome will be eligible for July Provision this year in whatever format the programme will take.
In response, Down Syndrome Ireland Interim CEO Deirdre Saul said: “We are glad that the Minister has listened to our concerns and the concerns of parents of children with Down syndrome and acted. All children with Down syndrome have complex learning needs and will need support during the Summer months to prepare for their return to education. Some 1,200 more children with Down syndrome will now be eligible for the programme as a result.”
Until now, July Provision has provided access to an extended school year only for children with autism and children with a severe or profound intellectual disability. As a result, many children with Down syndrome were not eligible for the programme, despite having complex needs. By limiting the July Provision scheme, children with Down syndrome were actively discriminated against.
Ms Saul continued: “We will continue to call on the Government to make the extended school year available in the future for all children with Down syndrome. We congratulate all the organisations and families involved in this long campaign and for having their voices heard. We look forward to seeing practical, accessible options being provided to support families this Summer and into the future.”
Update on Summer Provision 2020 Post update 05/06/2020
We need your help! Please contact the Minister and your local TD demanding change today
Deirdre Saul, Interim CEO; and Fidelma Brady, Head of Education, participated in a consultation on summer (July) provision with officials from the Department of Education & Skills and representatives from a number other organisations on Thursday June 4th. The general theme underpinning the Summer Provision model currently being considered by the Department of Education & Skills appears to be preparation of children with SEN to return to school. However, any possibility that the model would apply only to children attending special schools or special classes; or to those children with very complex needs, is extremely worrying.
All children with Down syndrome have complex learning needs and adopting the model proposed currently would exclude and discriminate against the vast majority of those children attending mainstream schools. They have been out of the school environment since March 12th, and the importance of providing them with a summer programme to facilitate their return to school in September cannot be stressed enough. Without this facility, children will be denied the opportunity to reconnect with the school and reacquaint themselves with school routines, school personnel and learning processes. In its current form, the proposed model falls very far short of what is required and is completely unacceptable for children with Down syndrome.
The model needs to be reviewed and reconsidered as a matter of urgency, before any final decisions are taken over the coming days. Down Syndrome Ireland has made strong representations to the Department of Education & Skills and has indicated that this proposal is discriminatory and will be challenged. It goes against our previous attempts and efforts to have all children with Down syndrome included in the scheme. We have contacted the Minister, Mr Joe McHugh TD, to demand that the scheme includes all children with Down syndrome.
We need YOUR help!
Together our voices are stronger, we ask our members to contact the Minister and their local TDs today!
You can reach The Minister at Minister@education.gov.ie and at email@example.com. We also suggest that members contact their own TD’s over the coming days and seek their support in having the proposed model reviewed and restructured – this useful web tool will help you find your local TD.
We will all update members as any new information from the Department of Education & Skills becomes available.
Clarity on current July Provision: Post update 14/5/2020
Further update on July Provision: Post updated 21/5/2020
We have been in contact with the Department of Education and Skills and have been informed that officials are developing proposals for the programme of July Provision long term but it has not been possible to advance those to consultation due to current circumstances. The public health restrictions will influence what is possible this year but they are not in a position to be definitive at this stage. This response does not give us any clear information at this point. However, we recommend that parents apply for July Provision anyway, once the process opens, even if they do not meet the criteria as it stands currently. Parents should keep in contact with their school principal for information on the closing date for applications until we get any more concrete information from the Dept.
The latest information regarding July provision states that the application facilities are now closed with no further information other than a contact email address.