Vibrant protest outside Enda's office in Castlebar against cuts to SNAs

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Date:
Just under 100 people, both parents and children with special needs and their supporters, took part in a vibrant protest today against cuts to SNAs (Special Needs Assistants) in Castlebar, Co. Mayo outside Taoiseach Enda Kenny's constituency office. The protest was called despite a u-turn by Minister Ruairi Quinn on recent plans to withhold 500 additional teaching posts in schools which were required to cope with the growing number of children in the education system who need support.
 
The atmosphere at the protest was cheerful, friendly, but also angry. Almost every passing motorist beeped their horn in support of the protesters. 
 
Although Ruairi Quinn claims this as evidence of his record of "passionately defending [special education] since coming into office", the reality is very different as campaigners from ÁIRC, an organisation set up to support children with special needs in Mayo, told us.
 
"In 2010 the number of SNAs was capped at 10,575 and that has remained even though there are 8000 more children in need of their services since then, including 2000 this coming September. Some SNAs are allocated up to five children across several different classrooms or buildings. This puts undue pressures and stress on all involved from the child to the SNA to parents and other pupils. If a child does not have an allocation of SNA then they are bounced back to special schools that have increasing waiting lists or must be home schooled. There are 22,000 child with special educational needs this September. How can a capped number of SNAs possibly fill these requirements?"
 
"Some cuts may have been reversed yesterday however several others have not been reversed, including the 15% reduction in resource hours in schools," she told us.
 
It is clear that this recent reversal is nothing more than posturing on behalf of the government - the embargo on recruitment, in the face of increasing numbers of children requiring services, is tantamount to a very considerable cut. Although parents of children with special needs have welcomed this reversal, they are still facing savage cuts to the vital services they require. And this will continue so long as the government is determined to inflict its disasterous austerity policies, which always hit the most vunerable in society.
 
One thing that the protest today in Castlebar, and the one in Dublin show is that the parents and children affected by this will not be silenced.
 

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