Special needs kids denied funds

Parents of special needs children are being told erroneously that 5-year-olds do not qualify for early childhood education funding.

Regional councillor Prue Lamason expressed her concerns about a lack of understanding around early childhood education entitlements at an Upper Hutt business breakfast earlier in July.

Lamason said it had taken the intervention of Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins for her grandson to be able to continue to receive his 20-hour ECE entitlement.

She said children with special needs could be integrated into preschools but funding for this would often stop when a child turned 5, leading to parents deciding to send their children to school.

“I have a little grandson with special needs and without Chris’ help this is what would have happened to my grandson,” Lamason said.

“His parents didn’t feel he was ready for school.

“They wished for him to stay at the preschool, the preschool were happy for him to have him, but [they were told] there was no funding so they were going to have to pay for him to stay.”

Hipkins’ intervention had ensured her grandson would continue to receive funded early childhood education until his sixth birthday, she said.

“There are many parents [who] have no idea and who aren’t quite as feisty as my daughter,” Lamason said.

Hipkins, Labour’s education spokesman, said the law entitled parents to keep their special needs children in education until the age of 6.

“They’re not required to enrol in school until the age of 6,” he said.

“And therefore they’re entitled to all the same levels of support if they’re 5 years old and in early childhood education.”

Hipkins said the funding rules were often misunderstood.

“You do have to fight for it because the ministry is not good at implementing what their own rules actually say [children] should be entitled to.”

He said the case of Lamason’s grandson wasn’t the only instance where he had intervened.

“I’ve dealt with several and my invitation to all parents in that category would be to go and see the local MP . . . to get the support their child needs.”

– Upper Hutt Leader

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