by Catherine Delahunty
The Government has decided to close two residential schools for disabled students, McKenzie and Salisbury. They claim the principle of inclusion and that students will get wrap-around support in the mainstream. I would really like to believe this but right now it’s hard.
A family I have been working with have been in the media this week because when Halswell Residential School was closed after the earthquake their son came home to be mainstreamed. They were refused ORRS support for him on the grounds that he didn’t meet the criteria. I am working on what this means given that he met the criteria for a place in Halswell. The consequences of this lack of support have been dire for this young man and his family. A family member has been hospitalised because he can become violent when stressed and the situation is now extremely stressful.
I want inclusion to work but if families are going to have prove the needs all over again and then risk refusal of support inclusion isn’t going to work! I hope cost cutting is not the real driver of these changes because even in monetary terms it’s going to cost more to pick up the pieces of systemic failure. Wrap around has to mean real front line support staff on real wages for all students with moderate and severe needs. Otherwise we undermine the opportunity for positive inclusion and for one family at least that is already happening!