'Expenses would pay for 47 SNAS'
ONE WEXFORD Special Needs Assistant has spoken out against Minister Brendan Howlin's decision to increase the amount TDS can spend on secretarial and PR services. Brenda Kelly, Coolcotts, (pictured left) is outraged by the move. The Special Needs Assistant at Scoil Mhuire believes that the €1 million set aside for these expenses should be spent on special needs education. 'I mean I just think it is disgraceful Brendan Howlin's office is just outside Scoil Mhuire and he knows we really need more funding', said Brenda. Brenda went on to explain that the annual salary for an SNA is below €21,000. This would mean that the funding allocated for these increased expenses would pay for 47 SNAS for a year. According to Brenda, the Minister has previously stated that cuts to education spending are being enforced by ' Troika'. 'I would just like to know what the Troika had to say about this million being spent', she said.
It has previously been suggested that allocating one SNA to each child is excessive but Brenda believes the children at this autism unit require a very high level of care and education in order to progress to main stream education as soon as possible.
' The unit at Scoil Mhuire is an Applied Behavioural Analysis unit', said Brenda.
She continued: 'Basically what this means is that it is a stop gap to get children into mainstream schools'.
The practical implications of this are simply unacceptable according to Brenda. ' There is a serious risk to the children's safety', said Brenda. She continued: 'If I have a child head butting the table, which can happen, and another child has soiled themselves both need my care at the very same time and I have to decide who to tend to first, when both need my attention urgently'.
Brenda has worked as an SNA for eight years. The thirty four year old is passionate about her work but has become disillusioned with the Department's approach to education.
' This is not a child centred service and the review next month is just a sneaky way of bringing in more cuts'.
Brenda admits that her primary concern is for the children's safety, however she understands that she is also at risk of loosing her job if the review next month recommends further staffing cuts.
Brenda says that she is certain that if she or other SNAS like her were to be made redundant it would cost the government more in social welfare spending than it would to pay their wages.
'I have worked out that if I was unemployed and entitled to a full medical card and mortgage interest relief I would cost the government €500 more than my year's salary costs them now', she concluded.