“Loyalty to your country always. Loyalty to your government when it deserves it.” – Mark Twain
At the moment I don’t think our government deserve much loyalty. The unfair way in which money is spent and wasted in Ireland, and the depressing news every day since the recession began is sickening. I feel sorry for the Irish government in a way, and I wouldn’t want their job in a million years. But some of the cutbacks, particularly those affecting vulnerable people, children, the elderly and people with disabilities are just shameful.

All over the country the department of education are cutting classroom assistant jobs in schools, and children with special needs are suddenly expected to manage without them. A parent wants to feel that their child is safe and being looked after when they leave them to school every day. This can’t be guaranteed when there isn’t enough assistants to care for the children who need them. Education is a human right, and these children are being denied it. It is not their fault that they have a disability, so why should they have to suffer because our country is in a complete mess financially. The need for classroom assistants creates jobs for people who would otherwise be joining the extremely long dole cue.

My mum teaches teenagers with a variety of disabilities. There are six students in the class, with three full-time and a part time assistant to help. Last week they were told that they can only have one classroom assistant. That’s two people looking after six children. Her class, and the school where she works isn’t the only one. The people who make these decisions obviously have no compassion, and have no idea what it is like to work in this kind of environment. Unfortunately nothing will probably ever be done, until there is a serious accident in school. Then it is already too late.

Before the days of special schools, people with severe disabilities were hidden away, never seen, never talked about and never understood. Not so long ago people with disabilities were being encouraged to attend mainstream school in order to help integrate them fully into society. I have seen the benefits of this for myself. Children participate in the same activities as their friends. People see them as part of the community, and realise that they are often more capable than expected. People are aware of disability and are no longer so afraid to approach somebody. Now, with less staff to help the children, it will be impossible for teachers to teach them daily living skills and take them out of their classroom. My mum will not be able to easily take her children shopping, on the bus, out for lunch and anywhere else they might go. Everything will require careful planning and caution. It might even put some people off venturing out with so many children. This seems like a leap backwards to me.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I have an assistant for 20 hours a week, but it wasn’t easy getting this. People who were supposed to help were telling me after I finished college that I needed to get a job and be independent. I didn’t know where I could find a job, and I was still waiting on my guide dog. I was never confident using the cane and I was made to feel like I should be using it on my own by now. It took an unfortunate incident on a bus journey to work, to a work placement in a building I had never been to in my life, to convince them that I was unable to do certain things on my own. I got my hours trebled the very next day.

I live a couple of miles outside town and work four days a week. My PA collects me from home and drives me to the bus stop, and home from there in the evening so that my parents don’t always have to be around. I leave home before eight A.M and get home just before 7 pm. I have Fridays off, but I usually use my time to do jobs like volunteering, do shopping, go to the vet or record interviews that are outside work and difficult to get to. It isn’t possible to get public transport everywhere, and even though OJ makes life much much easier he can’t drive!

When I got OJ i was convinced that my hours with my pa would be cut. So far so good. I can’t help feeling guilty though, because I know there are hundreds of people having hours and assistance cut, who need help much more than me. I am always preparing for the worst, and if my hours are cut I will manage. It’s not the end of the world, and I know my family will help if I really need it. I feel angry that anyone, especially the parent of a child with special needs is being denied the help they need. I will always be thankful for what I have, and have decided not to complain about the recession until it affects me directly in a bad way. I think too many people, who actually have little to complain about use the recession as an excuse to whinge about everything. No matter what happens, there is usually always somebody worse off than you.


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