Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly has called on the Government to remember its “obligations as a service to the people in our society” following revelations by RTÉ Investigates on Thursday. The programme detailed that dossiers of sensitive information on children with autism involved in legal actions against the State were built and maintained by the Department of Health in cooperation of the Health Service Executive and the Department of Education.
Senator O’Reilly asked Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion, Josepha Madigan TD, for a response from the Department of Education to the revelations during a Commencement Matter on special needs services in the Seanad.
The Minister laid out her position and that of the Department on the floor of the Seanad: “In the defence of any legal proceedings, it is appropriate for the Department to engage with relevant State Bodies [such as] the school …. In which the litigant is a pupil to understand and appreciate fully the educational provision on offer. This is to ensure that any alleged deficiencies in provision can be appropriately considered”.
Following Minister Madigan’s response, Senator O’Reilly warned that, “we have to be very careful when we talking about education that it doesn’t sound like a ‘doing to’ somebody but that it is a collaborative practice.”
“I really hope that the Department of Education is taking into account the fact that this isn’t about defending ourselves, this is about our obligations as a service to the people in our society and to the children who are in those schools. It’s a service, not about defence, and not about checking boxes.”
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