Call for more to be done for children

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The chief executive of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council is to write to the Education Authority and the Department of Health to remind them of their duties in respect of Children with Special Educational Needs.

The contact follows a Sinn Féin motion to council calling for such an action.

Councillor Liam Mackle said: “Recent research by the Audit Office found that 22% of the school population have special educational needs. That amounts to 76,305 pupils. Just 17,000 of these have secured a statement of Special Educational Needs. Too many are without.

“In the past five years the numbers of pupils with special educational needs has increased by 13% yet despite this the system has been starved of resources.

“Early intervention is precisely what these children need yet they face delay after delay in accessing adequate support and provision.

“Parents face endless battles in their quest to secure the support and interventions their sons and daughters require.

“The same audit office report found that 79% of statements are not issued within the 26 week statutory time limit. This is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue.

“Far too many children get as far as post primary school without a statement of needs. This has repercussions far beyond education.

“Almost half of the children in the justice system in 2017 had special educational needs. Our motion aims to return focus to this important issue.

“The Children’s services co-operation act... requires government departments and local councils to work together to improve the well being of our children.”

Councillor Maire Cairns who seconded the motion added: “Council can no longer shirk their role in securing better outcomes for our young people.

“They have a statutory obligation to improve the well being of our children and must step up to the plate.”