Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams has criticised Education Minister Richard Bruton for failing to ensure that all schools in the constituency have an assigned National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) psychologist.
Last week Teachta Adams highlighted the damning fact that 57 schools across Louth are currently without an assigned NEPS psychologist.
Gerry Adams said;
“I am horrified at the situation in Louth which means that 57 schools and their respective population of teachers, children and their families do not have automatic access to an assigned NEPS psychologist.
“It is grossly unfair that some schools can avail of the service while others such as Knockbridge National School, Scoil Bhride, Shelagh, Gaelscoil Dhun Dealgan and second level schools including De La Salle College, St Vincents, St Louis and Dundalk Grammar cannot.
“Moreover the fact that the NEPS service is obliged to pay for private psychologists’ assessments for children attending schools which cannot access their NEPS psychologist is an inefficient use of resources and amounts to the privatisation of parts of this service.
“I submitted further parliamentary questions to discover what schools in Louth are being denied this service, how many additional staff the Minister intends to recruit in Louth; how much NEPS is paying each year in private psychological assessments and the number of pupils currently on waiting lists to access a private psychological assessment.
“The responses which I received from Minister Bruton are troubling and will cause distress to parents and children attending the 23 Dundalk schools with no NEPS psychologist.
“Furthermore the fact that the Drogheda NEPS office, which services Louth schools, has a staff complement of 7 psychologists, 4 of whom are on long term leave, would go some way to account for visits to my constituency office by parents who are being told that their children face an 18 month waiting list for psychological assessment, unless of course they can pay for it themselves.
‘So what we have in Louth is a much depleted NEPS service, which, instead of recruiting additional staff has been paying for private assessments. In fact over the past 5 years €142,272 has gone towards these private assessments. This begs the question would the Education Minister not have been better off ensuring the full staff complement was maintained instead of looking to the private sector?
“Anecdotal evidence at my office in Dundalk suggests that regardless of whether a school has access to a NEPS psychologist or it accesses assessments through the private sector, children face horrendous waiting lists for their assessments.
“I will be raising this directly with the Education Minister.”