Siblings with Complex Needs Granted Individual Summer Provision Hours in ‘exceptional case’

Children granted individual hours after IHREC intervention

17 June 2022

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) recently gave legal assistance to a mother and her two young sons in making an application to the Department of Education for the 2022 Home-Based Summer Programme to Support the Education or Care Needs of Students with Complex Needs (‘the Scheme’). Both boys are in mainstream schools and have enduring complex needs which significantly affect their capacity to learn, to function independently and to participate in education.

Currently, under the terms of the Scheme, siblings with complex needs in the same household are generally taught together and are entitled to less hours overall than children without siblings with complex needs, subject to a few limited exceptions. Our client, working with the Commission’s legal team, sourced expert advice which demonstrated that a shared allocation of hours would not meet the children’s respective needs and would likely be detrimental to their development. The Commission wrote to the Department of Education, noting our belief that this expert evidence justified the making of an exception to the general rule around sibling allocations. The Commission further argued that, by not taking account of the different special educational needs of siblings in mainstream education, the terms of the Scheme potentially amounted to discrimination on the grounds of disability, contrary to section 5 of the Equal Status Act 2000-2018 and the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law.

The Commission are pleased to report today that the Department of Education have agreed to grant individual allocations under the Scheme to both children (10 hours for four weeks for each child). A teacher/SNA can now be engaged for each of the boys, thus complying with the rights of the children to an adequate and appropriate primary education under section 7 of the Education Act 1998 and Article 42 of the Constitution.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said;

“These young people have a right to education and for that education to be appropriate , and to meet their specific needs. It is incumbent on the State to provide that. While the Commission is happy that the Department of Education has, in this instance, recognised the rights and needs of the child, there are far too many children with complex needs and disabilities whose rights to an appropriate education are not being upheld under the law. We welcome today’s development and we hope that the Department will proactively adopt a similar approach to other families in similar circumstances.

“We continue to call for an explicit human rights and equality-based approach which will ensure that mainstream educational provision is fully inclusive of people with complex needs and disabilities. As the designated independent monitor of Ireland’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), we are mandated to assist all those who are denied such rights.”

The mother in this case, who preferred not to be named, said;

“The lack of empathy and understanding within the department towards the differing needs of neurodiverse siblings is shocking. As parents, we shouldn’t have to fight for our children to be treated equally, and we hope that the department will see fit to afford the same conditions to all other siblings who do not have the opportunity to avail of an in-school summer programme.”


For further information, please contact:

Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760

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Editor’s Note:

The Irish Government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. In March 2018 they ratified the Convention as the last EU Member State to do so.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.