Commenting on changes to the law made at the start of lockdown which ‘diluted’ government’s responsibility to provide sufficient services and support to children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said,
“I continue to have serious concerns about how these temporary changes to the law are impacting children with SEN and their families, and I have advised the Minister that it must not be renewed when it is due to be on 30th July.
The ‘Coronavirus Act 2020 Temporary Modification of Education Duties’ was enacted to address the impact the current outbreak of Coronavirus in Northern Ireland would have on education agencies ability to meet their legal duties as a result of reduced resources.
The Commissioner continued, “The diluted law which only requires agencies to ‘do their best’ has undoubtedly exacerbated the already extensive delays and waiting times for statutory SEN assessment and reviews.
“While I recognise the education and health sectors are operating in unprecedented times, and resources have had to be diverted to deal with the crisis, this does not absolve the relevant authorities of their obligation to protect the rights of children and young people.
“Of much greater concern is the impact on children, young people and their families, who have received little to no provision during the crisis,
“This has had profoundly detrimental effects on the education, health and wellbeing of children with SEN and disabilities, as well as on parents, carers and siblings; many of whom have informed us that they are at breaking point.
“The priority now must be resuming full services and fulfilling the statutory obligations to children and young people with SEN.”
Notes to Editors