Relief... Gemma Skelly and daughter Kaci.

‘I’m glad they have seen sense and listened to parents’

There was huge relief for students, parents and staff at St Mary's Special School when it was confirmed last week that speech and language services would be retained at the school.

Principal Maria Corredor confirmed the good new following a meeting with the HSE on Wednesday afternoon.

“We will be retaining our speech and language therapist. This is wonderful news for our students,” she said.

Ms Corredor met with the HSE's Disability Manager for Meath and the Children's Disability Network Manager.

“It was a positive meeting,” she said.

The previous evening, Disabilities Minister, Anne Rabbitte told a meeting in Ashbourne that the speech and language therapist would be maintained and the post should not have been removed.

It had emerged earlier that day that Minister Rabbitte, has directed the HSE to reinstate all therapists lost to Cork special schools.

At Tuesday night's meeting of the Families Disability Services Forum in the Pillo Hotel in Ashbourne, Minister Rabbitte unequivocally stated there should be no removal of the therapist’s post from St Mary’s.

There were two officials from HSE headquarters present.

A spokesperson for the Minister said the same level of service would be maintained at St Mary’s in the event of a retirement.

“Last year, Minister Rabbitte secured additional funding to maintain all such posts in Special Schools around the country, while ensuring they were linked to a local Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT) for clinical oversight and also to provide interventions to children accessing the CDNT,” he said.

A spokesperson for the HSE said; "Engagement between the HSE and the school principal has been ongoing for a number of weeks. The Meath Disability Manager advised the school principal and chairperson that following careful consideration a decision had been made to retain the SLT post in St Mary's."

The news has been greeted with delight and relief by parents of students.

“I'm thrilled. It is a huge relief to us. The speech and language therapist makes such a difference,” said Julie Gorman, whose son, Jake attends the school.

“This is one less thing to have to worry about. It is a good thing they listened to parents and hopefully going forward they will realise we are not just kicking off to be difficult, but we have very real concerns.”

Gemma Skelly, whose daughter, Kaci attends St Mary's said she was absolutely delighted.

“I'm glad they have seen sense and listened to parents,” she said.

Cllr Alan Lawes who set up an Uplift petition calling for the retention of the speech and language therapist was pleased at the news but he was worried that the mindset of the HSE is to implement cuts.

“I'm welcoming it with a note of caution,” he said.

“We shouldn't even be accepting the status quo. We should be getting extra services.”

Cllr Eddie Fennessy said; "This is great news for St Mary's Special School. The retention of SLT services will make a huge difference in the quality of life enjoyed by their students.

"Schools such as St Mary's provide vital support to the most vulnerable members of society, they should not be subject to cuts in services. The societal cost of doing so, far outweighs the financial burden placed on the exchequer.

"I'm glad the HSE seen sense and I urge them to lay off St Mary's Special School. The school has been through the mill over recent years, they need support not hindrance."

There had been a furious reaction when the school was told by the HSE in recent weeks that it would be losing it speech and language therapy service.

Ms Corredor had described the proposal as very worrying.

“This will have a negative effect on children,” she had warned.