McFadden demands reversal of decision on St Christopher’s Special Needs Assistants

‘One size fits all approach does not work in special education’ – McFadden

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has expressed her outrage at how St Christopher’s school has been treated over the reduction in the allocation of its Special Needs Assistants.

“I think it is absolutely outrageous,” said Deputy Gabrielle McFadden, speaking after the school’s appeal to have the number of special needs staff reinstated to 2013 levels was turned down.

“This Government has funded SNAs to record levels. There are now 12,050 Special needs assistants employed, compared with 10,500 in the last administration. St Christopher’s should be seeing the benefit of this increase, and I intend to ensure that it does.

“I spoke with the School Principal, Sheila Dinnegan, and she explained that while the numbers of pupils attending the school has remained the same, the needs of some of the children currently enrolled in the school are substantial and significantly more than many of its recently graduated pupils. The pupils who enrolled recently have tended to have much more complex needs, including autism, challenging behaviours and fragile medical needs.

“Ms Dinnegan told me that there was only a cursory review process before the school’s appeal was denied. A review of a situation like this cannot be cursory. Someone coming to do a review should spend time here, should engage with the pupils and the teachers, and see what the day to day running of the school is like to have a proper understanding of the challenges faced.

“A one size fits all approach simply does not work in special education. Each pupil is an individual and has individual needs.

“My husband, Dr Brian McClean, is a clinical psychologist who works regularly with the staff and clients of St Christopher’s. So I know at first hand that if children are not given enough supports to help their individual needs at the start, their challenges increase and so does the stress and distress that their families face.

“The reduction in Special Needs Assistants at St Christopher’s has also created a terribly stressful situation for staff and I applaud them for their efforts to continue to do their work with these children so admirably under such difficult circumstances.
“St Christopher’s is a wonderful facility. I have supported St Christopher’s any way I could as an elected TD for Longford. When the HSE threatened to close a group home in St Christopher’s a year ago, I fought hard to ensure that the funding stayed in place, and as a result, no service has had to close.

“I fully intend to continue this fight. I have directly pressed the Minister on this issue on a number of occasions and am going to continue to question the minister. I am going to find out on what grounds this decision has been made. And I am going to ask for the decision to be reversed, even until September, when a proper, thorough review can be undertaken.

“St Christopher’s needs adequate resource to continue their excellent and vital work. Families shouldn’t have to fight so hard every time to ensure their vulnerable and in need children are looked after. How we treat our most vulnerable as a society is a measure of how Christian we are, and this simply isn’t good enough.”

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Major Plans for Longford

• Up to 5 new multi-nationals targeted for Longford as part of McFadden’s Midlands Regional Job Strategy

Fine Gael’s Longford Westmeath TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has stated her intention to double the number of multi-national companies based in County Longford to ten businesses with potential to employ several hundred more people, as part of the Midlands Regional Jobs Strategy.

Currently, there are five multinationals based in Longford, employing 686 people. The first of the new projects, the Center Parcs project, has already been announced, and will create 1,750 new jobs in Ballymahon. But Deputy Mc Fadden is determined that Longford will have its fair share of the recovery, and is committed to seeing at least four more multi-nationals to set up here.

“The people of Longford supported me strongly in the bye election in 2014 and I am determined to continue to deliver my stated commitments; namely Jobs, Jobs and Jobs. And more jobs for Longford have been consistently on my agenda in regular meetings and discussions with my colleague Minister Richard Bruton.

“He agreed with me to make the Midlands the first area to have a Regional Jobs Strategy and has recently agreed with my target for Longford for five new multi-nationals. Co-ordinated by Deputy Mc Fadden, The Midlands Regional Jobs Strategy was formulated last year in consultation with over a hundred representatives from industry, the public sector, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland to formulate this. Contributions and ideas were sought and made by people working in construction, retail, farming and social enterprise in the Midlands and from the Midlands about how to create new jobs in the Midlands.

“Measures and initiatives that help create jobs in Dublin and the larger cities are often not necessarily the same ideas that are needed to attract jobs in counties like Longford, and the recovery has been slower to come to Longford than elsewhere. But results are positive with growth in numbers of people at work in the County of 28%.
“When Fine Gael came into government, there were 5,430 people on the live register in the county. This figure has been reduced to 3,934 in December 2015, an improvement of 28%.
“There is still a long way to go, said McFadden, but my commitment to jobs in Longford remains as strong as ever. When Fine Gael came into government, there were 5,430 people on the live register in the county. This figure has been reduced to 3,934 in December 2015, an improvement of 28%.
“There is still a long way to gobut my commitment to jobs in Longford remains as strong as ever”.

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Fine Gael committed to making families and communities feel safer with new burglary law and significant investment in An Garda Siochana – McFadden

Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that the new Burglary Act enacted recently will make Longford and Westmeath homes safer along with the Government’s significant investment in An Garda Síochána.

“The Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015 has now come into operation, meaning that bail can be denied to repeat offenders who come before the courts.

“Having had victims of burglaries visit my clinics, I have seen at first hand the horrendous effects this crime can have on people and families. Home is the place where we should all feel most safe and secure and that is why Minister Fitzgerald is targeting those who commit burglaries. This Bill will help to keep repeat burglars off the streets and to improve the safety of our communities.

“It is important that victims of crime are being listened to and Fine Gael, as the party always strong on law and order, is ensuring strong punitive measures are being put in place to tackle criminals.

“Statistics provided by the Garda Síochána show that 75% of burglaries are committed by 25% of burglars. As a result of this new law, bail can be denied and consecutive sentences can be given to repeat burglars. It’s my hope that the act will reduce crime rates in Longford and Westmeath and will be a key weapon in the battle against crime.

“This is just one step taken by the Government to support Gardaí in keeping our communities safe. This Government has reopened Templemore after it was closed by Fianna Fáil; €46m has been allocated for Garda vehicles, many of which will be high-power vehicles for targeted operations; €18 million is being provided for the refurbishment of Garda stations and €205 million has been invested in new technology for An Garda Síochána. This is part of an unprecedented allocation of €875 million in capital funding for the Justice sector.

“In my own constituency I’m delighted that 18 new Garda cars have been made available, 16 new Gardai have also been assigned to stations across Longford and Westmeath along with major refurbishments of Garda stations in Athlone and Mullingar.”

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Government very committed to keeping local post offices at the heart of rural Ireland – McFadden

Longford/Westmeath General Election candidate, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that this Government is very committed to keeping post offices at the heart of rural Ireland.
Deputy McFadden has said that agreements reached as part of the Post Office Network Business Development Group report will support local post offices right across Longford and Westmeath into the future.

“An Post is one of Ireland’s most trusted brands but it is vital that we put our valued post office network on a solid footing into the future.

“Post offices need to offer more to customers, including online banking, direct debits and ATM cards. As part of the recommendations of the review report, I therefore very much welcome the news that eAccounts are to be rolled out in 2016.

“An investigation will take also place into the feasibility of offering motor tax services in post offices.

“The post office is a defining facility in rural villages in Longford, Westmeath and right across the country. It is essential that we continue to create jobs in all parts of the country to provide business for post offices and to invest in vital services.”

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Average payouts of €1,000 for Westmeath householders affected by flooding – McFadden

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael Deputy, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that the work to support families, farmers and the business community after the flooding continues as payments are being issued under the various Government schemes.

“Now that the water levels are receding, families, the farming community and local businesses need support now more than ever.

“Unfortunately, it was said at a recent public meeting that no-body will get ‘a red cent’ from the Government and as a hard-working and straight talking politician, I want to put the record straight.

“I have worked tirelessly to ensure that people get the financial support that they deserve. Over the Christmas and into the New Year, up to 30 families in flood affected areas in Westmeath have received on average up to €1,000 under the Department of Social Protection’s Humanitarian Assistance Scheme.

“As a local Government TD on the ground, I also made sure Minister Simon Coveney extended the Irish Red Cross emergency funding scheme to local businesses which were previously not eligible because they were outside a rateable area. This Red Cross fund assists affected businesses unable to get flood risk insurance.

“I also made sure Minister Coveney introduced a special hardship scheme for farmers who were most severely affected financially by the flooding. This scheme was announced on January 28th and the Department of Agriculture is still receiving applications.

“In terms of emergency fodder, 35 farmers were approved to receive 86 tonnes in the Athlone area while under the fodder aid scheme providing the market value for fodder lost in the floods, 78 applications have been received from the Athlone/Roscommon region. This scheme closed on the January 22nd to applications and verification visits have been taking place in the meantime.

“It will take us a long time to recover from this but I am still working hard to support people who are affected.

“I urge everybody affected to make sure that they get the assistance they need. If my office can be of any help, please give us a call.”

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€78,000 funding allocation to Westmeath County Childcare Committee – McFadden

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael Deputy, Gabrielle McFadden, has welcomed a funding allocation of €78,000 to the Westmeath County Childcare Committee for local area co-ordination of disability services.

The project put forward by the Westmeath County Childcare Committee was selected following a competitive bid process administered by Pobal and will be co-ordinated on the Department of Health’s behalf by the HSE.

“This €78,000 is part of a total of €2.7m from the Dormant Accounts Fund to support people with disabilities.

“I echo the sentiments of the Minister of State for Social Care and Primary Care, Kathleen Lynch who praised the great work of many community and voluntary sector organisations such as Westmeath County Childcare Committee.

“These organisations have developed innovative ways of providing services to people with a disability.”

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Capital funding for Longford schools in 2015 more than doubled compared to 2011 investment -McFadden

*€6.06m allocated in 2015 compared to €2.63m in 2011]

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that capital funding for schools in Longford more than doubled in 2015 compared to the investment levels in 2011 when this Government came into office.

“Since we came into office, our first priority was to stabilise the economy to allow it to grow. We now want to keep the recovery going and while it has been gradual, the clear evidence is there to indicate that we are heading in the right direction.
“In 2011, when we came into office, capital funding for schools in the county was €2.63m but last year this rose to €6.06m in 2015.

“In the last three years, 2013-2015, this Government has invested more than €14m in secondary and primary schools in Longford. This funding is apart from the monies allocated across a range of other schemes in the county such as the additional accommodation scheme, the summer works scheme and the emergency works scheme.

“This investment is very good news for schools, teachers, students and local communities. It’s also important to emphasise that these school projects also create much needed employment.

“I believe the best way to address inequality is to create jobs for people. The more jobs we create, the more revenue we will have and the more money we will be able to put into services such as in the areas of education and health. Last week’s €4.7m in funding allocated for the upgrade of St Joseph’s Care Centre is evidence of being able to do this.

“To keep the recovery going for Longford and make sure it is felt inside every door in the county, we need political stability in order to maintain economic stability.”

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Heritage projects in Westmeath get €50,000 funding boost

Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has welcomed total funding of €50,000 for heritage projects in Westmeath.

“This funding will allow for the conservation and repair of heritage buildings in the county. (See details below)

“This funding announced by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys is a great boost for heritage projects in both counties. 340 heritage projects nationwide will share in a €2 million investment package as part of the Built Heritage Investment Scheme for 2016.

“A wide range of properties across Westmeath will benefit and the scheme follows a similar model to the Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme, which proved to be very successful in 2014.

“It is expected this new scheme will leverage an additional €8 million in private funds and will generate significant employment in the conservation and construction industries nationwide and here in Westmeath.

“Heritage buildings and protected structures are a vital part of Westmeath and the Government is committed to supporting their conservation.”

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Boost of €169,664 for Westmeath and Longford volunteers – McFadden

Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that total funding of €169,664 for Westmeath and Longford Volunteer Centres will provide a great boost for local volunteers. This is part of national funding of €3.15 million for volunteering organisations.

“Funding of €104,741 has been allocated to Westmeath Volunteer Centre while Longford Volunteer Centre will receive €64,923. This funding will support volunteers for 2016 and add to that being raised locally by many hard working volunteers.

“Volunteerism helps people to feel involved in their communities and to participate in local events. Volunteers drive local development, sports organisations and charities in all parts of the country and this funding will help to support the structures behind this valuable work. The importance of volunteers in our local communities cannot be understated.

“There is a wide range of social and community initiatives operating in Westmeath and Longford, all of which are only possible because of alliances that have formed between communities, voluntary agencies, government, and business. The level of professionalism, skill and cooperation that exists among volunteers here has never been greater.

“This funding has been provided to support volunteer centres and volunteer information services in all parts of the country including here in Westmeath A number of national organisations such as Volunteer Ireland, Young Social Innovators, Chambers Ireland and Focus have also received support under this scheme.”

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Westmeath to receive €7.35m in funding for social housing – McFadden

Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said she is very pleased to confirm that County Westmeath is to receive a total of €7.35m in funding by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government towards social housing.

“The Department of the Environment has confirmed that three projects have received approval for funding to proceed with their submission to construct housing units. They are as follows:

St. Lawrence Terrace, Mullingar 8 houses €1,600,000
Bun Daire, Kinnegad (Phase 3) 28 houses €5,250,000
Farran Mullingar 3 houses €500,000

“This funding allocated to Westmeath County Council will help alleviate demand for social housing in the county. While it must be acknowledged that this funding won’t by itself fix the problem of waiting lists or the housing demands where we are still playing catch up from years when money wasn’t available, this will help address the challenges people are facing. We can build on these developments for the future.
“Increasing housing supply is the real key to solving our housing shortage. A number of measures will stimulate the supply of housing before the end of the year.

“The Government’s €3.8 billion Social Housing Strategy will deliver 35,000 new social housing units and an additional 75,000 new social housing tenancies by 2020, which will greatly help to reduce demand and ease the pressure on housing waiting lists.”

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