3 Aug 2009

Budget cut hits some children with special needs

5:52 pm on 3 August 2009

Mt Roskill Primary School in Auckland is facing cuts to special needs care that says it will be devastating to the most vulnerable children.

The Government cut $2.5 million for therapy for special needs students in this year's Budget.

Mt Roskill will lose two fulltime and one part-time therapists because of the cuts.

The school's special needs unit manager, Jill Gillberd, says the therapists work with children with the most severe disabilities - some of whom need help just to be able to sit comfortably in class. She says the Budget cut came out of the blue.

However, Education Minister Anne Tolley says more special needs children will receive government help next year, despite the $2.5 million cut.

Ms Tolley says money is a relic from an old system of funding that should have been phased out over the past 10 years.

She says the $2.5 million, used to pay for extra help for the most seriously disabled children, will be instead put into the main fund, ensuring that an extra 1100 pupils in New Zealand will qualify for help next year.

But the Mt Roskill special needs unit says the cut is short-sighted and the intensive therapy makes the students more healthy and independent, saving taxpayer money in the long term.