Children with special needs may return to education over the summer months, according to the Taoiseach.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Leo Varadkar said he is “really worried” that some of society’s most vulnerable children may be regressing in their development while schools are closed.
He also said “a lot of work” is now going into plans to reopen childcare centres at the end of June, “not for all kids but in phases.”
He was speaking after Professor David Nabarro, World Health Organisation Special Envoy on COVID-19 said it was time to think about reopening all schools.
Mr Varadkar said officials are currently examining safe ways to bring children back to education; however, he said the vast majority of children will not be returning before September.
“One particular area we would really like to do something on is kids who have got special needs,” he said.
“Children with autism and kids with an intellectual disability or behavioural problems. They have been home since march and some of them may be regressing with their development.
“I am really worried about that group of children and I am getting a lot of letters from their parents.”
“One thing we would like to do before September is something around what they call July provision, which is some summer education dedicated towards those groups of kids with the highest needs.
“If we do anything before September, it is going to be in that space but we want to get it right too.”
He said officials are drawing up plans to reopen all schools in a “practical and safe way” come September.
“There is never going to 100% no risk, unfortunately a couple of kids every year get meningitis maybe in school and can get very sick as a result – that doesn’t cause us to close schools indefinitely,” he said.
“So, there is no ‘no-risk’ option, but we have to look at all the ways to minimise the risk.”
Mr Varadkar admitted that he worries about the impact of the lockdown “all the time” – but insisted the roadmap for reopening the economy can only be sped up, “if and only if the data says it is safe to do so.”