Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Choice for Disabled People (NICOD)


  NICOD unfortunately is not in a position to give specific response to issues around expenditure in relation to children with special needs as we have no direct input into this process. We do however have direct contact with parents supporting children with special needs and have worked with a range of professionals and therefore would be in a position to formulate a response on the basis of evidence from this source.

    —  Our current understanding is that Targeting Social Need (TSN) funding allocation is made on the basis of Free School Meals places. Our experience is that many children with special needs, in particular those with physical disability such as Cerebral Palsy and Hemiplegia, are not necessarily in receipt of this benefit.

    —  NICOD are of the view that funding made available within their school environment should be ring-fenced to be specifically targeted for the provision of children with special needs.

    —  NICOD have a close working relationship with the Northern Ireland Cerebral Palsy Register. The Register has been in operation for approximately five years, assimilating evidence on the prevalence of Cerebral Palsy within Northern Ireland. Information from the Register gives a clear indication that there are between 66 and 70 cases of children with Cerebral Palsy born each year. Therefore it seems reasonable to assume that there would be in the region of 70 children with Cerebral Palsy coming forward each year who will have a requirement for some form of special educational support, either in the mainstream or special school environment.

    —  With regard to the waiting list on assessment time within various Board areas, we are not aware of the current waiting time because this information is not released into the public domain by the Education and Library Boards. We are however aware of specific instances where parents have had to wait up to two years for a full assessment of their child's needs.

    —  NICOD are of the view that there are deficits in the information and support available to parents under the assessment process. It is our view that many parents do not know the range of support that is available within the Special Education system or support that might be made available within a mainstream school environment. We are of the view that a greater range of information should be made available and specific support be made available to parents assisting them through this process.

    —  In relation to the costs associated with Health and Social Services provision within the educational environment, we are not privy to those specific issues. However, we are aware of the fact that under the non-educational provision aspect of the child's statement, therapy input is often determined on the basis of the availability of resources within Health and Social Services rather than a direct determination of the child's needs.

    —  There is some anecdotal evidence to indicate that while the recommended therapy input is provided by local H & SS Trusts, any recommendations they make regarding the child's needs has to be resourced by the local ELB's. These are not always taken on board because of resource limitations. Therefore the impact of the therapist's recommendations depends on the budget of the ELB, e.g., Occupational Therapist may recommend a special type of table—The ELB has to fund this.

  I hope you found the above information of some use. It is based on our direct experience of working with approximately 200 children with Cerebral Palsy throughout Northern Ireland and a close working relationship that we have established with a variety of professionals in health, education and related fields.

9 April 1998

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