Provision of education for young people with learning disabilities

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A group of parents from Northern Ireland visited Parliament Buildings to highlight the growing need for more provision in the County Tyrone area for young people of post-high school age with learning disabilities.

The Parents Action Group for 19 plus took their campaign to Stormont where they made their case to the Health, Social Services and Public Safety Committee and met a number of politicians (MLAs).

In a bid to publicise their case to as wide an audience as possible, group member May McAvoy spoke briefly to the committee’s chairperson on the television programme Stormont Live. The group members are seeking to establish a Northern Ireland-wide change in provision for young adults upon leaving special school, keeping their continued welfare a priority. They are keen to see facilities catering for the appropriate age group while also supplying care, training, further education, employment respite and leisure.

Speaking to me, Mrs McAvoy said the meeting with politicians went well and added that she hoped it would highlight the issue.

“It’s a big mountain to climb, but I feel we have taken a step in the right direction. We want to see change and that can only come about if our government takes notice. The young people are very much part of our community and we want them to remain so,” she said.

The Parents Action Group for 19 plus has identified areas in which they would like to see change, including further education and training according to disability, employment which includes work placements, accommodation to enable some form of independence, respite care, social and leisure provision to develop hobbies and consultation.

The purpose of the group is to lobby politicians in the hope of raising awareness and prompting action in the political arena, regarding the needs of this group of people who, they feel, have largely been ignored. Through highlighting what they believe is inadequate provision, they hope to achieve equality of opportunity in further education, training, employment, social and leisure pursuits.

Another of their aims is to make the goal of independent living achievable for those who are able, and to make respite care more locally and more frequently available for families who need it.

It is hoped that the group from County Tyrone will be able to network with other groups nationwide to increase awareness of the need to put pressure on the government for change.

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