In the past number of weeks I was approached in my office by a parent whose son has autism. He was assigned to a school in Athy and unfortunately it did not work out for him in so far as he was not able to cope in the school in question. That has been backed up by reports from the principal of the school, psychologists, the special needs assistant, the bus driver and the parents themselves. The child was physically getting sick in the car going to school and was obviously being a major source of disruption in the school.
Incredibly, the Department of Education and Science is refusing to give home tuition to that child, despite all the evidence given to it. They keep coming back to the parents stating the Department will not give them home tuition because, as far as they are concerned, the child has a school place. The child has not attended school since April last and, unfortunately, will not be attending school in the foreseeable future.
I am shocked at the attitude of the Department of Education and Science, which I cannot understand. For years it did nothing for children with autism. Then it started throwing money at parents for home tuition and there was no accountability. We had no idea who was given home tuition and how many hours they were getting.
In this case where a school place was allocated, it has not worked out and the obvious solution is for the option of home tuition to be given to the parents and the child involved but the Department is sticking to its guns and is not catering for the child's needs. We seem to have learned nothing from the Jamie Sinnott court case or the case taken by Marie O'Donoghue, where she proved in the High Court that every child is educable irrespective of his or herdisability he or she may have.
I would ask the Minister, Deputy Roche, even though he is not in that Department, to let my concerns be known to the Department of Education and Science. It does not make sense. All these people seek is home tuition. That is why home tuition is available. It is in place for exactly this type of case.