Last night, the daily struggle of Gillian Bolger and Darren Milne to look after their eight year old twins, Kyle and Ryan, who both have autism and other health issues, was harrowingly revealed. The story showed where the Government, through its agencies, has clearly failed these children and parents, and many more parents, due to the shortage of school places and the inadequacy of timely and regular access to therapies such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy. I ask the Taoiseach to look at that ten-minute segment at the end of "Prime Time". Gillian summed up the feelings of many parents of children with special needs. She asked a question which is asked of many of us. Why are these children not prioritised when it comes to getting into school? Every other kid goes back to school in September. Why is there always a problem for quite a number of children with special needs in getting school places in September? They said they had to fight every day, tooth and nail, to secure services for their children. The father, Darren, who works with Bus Éireann, had to cut down his week as the children with their health needs had to come out of school. Because they came out of school, they could not get home tuition. They had to fight for 12 months to get back home tuition. The father could only work two days a week. The couple's income went down, their mortgage went into arrears and they are now facing repossession. Their plight sums up the struggle and fighting that so many parents have to go through to get services for children with special needs. Many parents annually face these challenges in securing school places.
Before the recess, I met the special education council to discuss about six or seven cases, not within my own constituency. One child was 12 months outside secondary school and the mother of that child said exactly what Gillian Bolger said last night. She also told me her other son had no difficulty in getting a placement in his second level school while her child with special needs had to be out of school for 12 months. That is a fundamental failure on the part of the Government and the Minister for Education and Skills to provide for children with special needs as they should be provided for. It is a denial of their constitutional right. In my view, there is a terrible inertia within the Government towards this issue, which has been ongoing for some time. Last year, the Opposition forced through an amendment to the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 to give the power to the Minister to instruct schools to provide for children with special needs, to have specific autism classes. That is what was done in the 1990s in terms of primary education, when education was transformed in terms of access for children with special needs. There is no plan for second level. There is terrible inertia and a terrible lack of getting in there and getting it sorted. I ask the Taoiseach the question Gillian Bolger asked last night. Why are the children with special needs not prioritised above and beyond everybody else? They are being left behind and the parents are fighting too hard every day.