“They shouldn’t have put us through this in the first place” – Mother of boy with Down syndrome relieved after HSE funding u-turn

Natasha Byram’s three-year-old son Elliot stood to lose out on access to the Early Intervention Home Teacher Programme back in December

“They shouldn’t have put us through this in the first place” – Mother of boy with Down syndrome relieved after HSE funding u-turn

Natasha Byram’s three-year-old son Elliot stood to lose out on access to the Early Intervention Home Teacher Programme back in December

A mother whose son has Down syndrome has told of her "absolute relief" after the HSE rowed back on its decision to reduce funding to a vital pre-school service he attends.

The HSE's u-turn comes after a report broadcast on Newstalk Breakfast detailed the impact that funding cuts to the Early Intervention Home Teacher Programme would have on families.

Natasha Byram from Ashbourne, Co Meath, spoke about how her three-year-old son Elliot had availed of the support – which provides special one-on-one teaching, before a child with Down symdrome goes into mainstream education.

“When I read the email that this could be taken away it felt like a kick in the stomach ... Why would they take away something that, in the scheme of things, is such a small grant that has such a huge effect?” Natasha told Newstalk reporter Kieran Cuddihy.

The programme costs €100,000 to run - one quarter of that funding came from the HSE but in December last, Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI) was informed that funding was being cut by 60%.

According to DSI's Chief Executive Pat Clarke the decision jeopardised the future of the entire programme. Without the support, up to 80 children would lose access to a vital service.

HSE u-turn

Upon hearing the HSE’s decision today to reverse the funding cut, Natasha said she felt “absolute relief over how easy it was for them to backtrack with just a few people shouting”.

“It makes you think they shouldn’t have put us through this in the first place. It’s a great weight lifted from the shoulders of all the parents here,” she told Newstalk.

The Early Intervention Home Teacher Programme was originally provided in Dublin by St Michael’s House and St John of God’s. Other parents around the country soon saw its value and set up their own locally, like the Louth-Meath service where Elliot attends.

Natasha now hopes more children with Down’s can avail of the support. “They should go further and fund the whole thing nationwide,” she added.