Fórsa has demanded immediate consultation on Government plans to pilot changes in funding and other arrangements for the delivery of the service, which were announced by education minister Joe McHugh last week. The union says SNAs fear the announcement could give the green light for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and individual schools to impose new and untested arrangements without consultation.
Fórsa official Andy Pike said consultation on changes that impact on working conditions is obligatory under the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA). “The service implications of any changes should also be the subject of consultation with SNAs and other stakeholders prior to implementation,” he added.
Andy gave a cautious welcome to a proposed national SNA training programme, which is included in the proposals announced on 27th March. This could see progress on a longstanding aspiration for SNAs.
He also said that plans to frontload allocations could reduce the incidence of precarious employment experienced by many SNAs.
And he restated the union’s willingness to work with the education department, the NCSE and schools to improve the service that thousands of SNAs provide to children with special needs each school day. “But this needs to be implemented following proper consultation with SNAs and other stakeholders, who need to see more detail before a properly informed view can be established,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fórsa has been in discussions with the education department about the lack of consultation over speech and language therapy pilots in the special education field. SNAs are refusing to cooperate with the initiative pending clarification of the department’s position.
In a separate move, the union has also queried requests to some SNAs to insert catheters even though they haven’t been adequately trained.