A review of the Assistive Technology Grants for primary and secondary school students must be published without delay, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Tim Lombard has called for a complete overhaul of the application process, as the current system lacks clarity, transparency and causes undue delays.
Senator Lombard said: “We need a review and transparency around eligibility and assessment of applications for the Scheme for Assistive Technology.
“It has come to my attention via a response to a parliamentary question that there is confusion around the eligibility criteria when assessing applications for the Assistive Technology Grant within the Department of Education’s own networks.
“The criteria currently being used when assessing children has totally moved the goalposts and has resulted in unsuccessful applications for students for whom technology is deemed essential by medical and / or other professional reports.
“Further confusion around the grant also reigns within schools, as refusal means financial assistance will not be given, but it does not prevent students using technology that may already be in place in classrooms or home to support their educational needs.”
Senator Lombard continued: “We also need a change in the current practice where there is lack of continuity regarding assistive technology.
“A student who is successful in their application and has the use of technology in primary school has to reapply when they move to secondary school. This makes no sense and often results in the student being without the technology they need for some of their time at second level.
“Another glaring issue regarding lack of continuity is in relation to the State Examination Commission and their Reasonable Accommodations at Certified Examinations (RACE) policy.
“A student who uses technology every day in school has to meet RACE eligibility rules which require a set of one-off scores in standardised test.
“A student will not find out if they are eligible to use their technology until spring of Junior Cert year, only weeks before the exams.
“A student who doesn’t meet the RACE criteria has to sit the state exams without the technology they use every day. It’s like taking glasses off a student who needs them and telling them to go sit their exams without their glasses.”
Senator Lombard continued: “I welcome the confirmation I received from Minister for Education Norma Foley that the Department is currently reviewing the scheme, but we need definitive information and timelines around this review.
“I was told that the review is ongoing, will have a consultative element with relevant stakeholders invited to participate and is expected to be complete by autumn 2023.
“We’ve had enough false dawns. It’s now May so we need to see movement on this review and the consultation process promised if it is to be complete by the Autumn,” Senator Lombard concluded.