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Chairman Brendan McConville pledges his support for Steven Agnew’s proposed private Members Bill to improve outcomes for children

Brendan McConville has campaigned for many years through his “a lifetime of difference” appeal at The Buddy Bear Trust School to see conductive education become a ‘mainstream’ part of the education and therapy for children suffering from cerebral palsy in Northern Ireland, and to see greater integration of the existing services of health and education for such children.

Speaking at the event held in the Long Gallery in Stormont, Steven Agnew, the Green Party Leader said: “If we are serious about tackling the disadvantages faced by many children in Northern Ireland in terms of improving health and educational outcomes then we need to ensure that they get the best start in life.

“We need to use what limited resources we have as efficiently as possible and that means getting departments to work together and moving beyond a ‘silo mentality’.

During the Q&A session, Brendan explained his experience of the frustration of parents of disabled children who suffer the consequences of a disjointed and uncoordinated approach to helping parents meet the needs of their children, by local level providers.

Brendan highlighted one case which required the parents to seek the support of a solicitor and a barrister to make their case to an Independent Special Needs tribunal because the Education boards uses the Joint Legal Service and barristers to defend their actions and decisions.

The entire legal process not only caused emotional stress to the entire family but incurred fees far in excess of the actual fees for attending the Buddy Bear Trust School. Thankfully a legal firm and barrister fought and won the case on a pro bona basis for the parents.

Mr McConville, who praised the support of many in the audience, particularly Mr F Molloy MLA who has supported the trust for 25 years, who have helped him raise awareness within the Assembly of the schools work with disabled children.

Brendan also asked how any statutory duty would be policed and what the consequences would be for any department failing to meet their duty of care – Stephen Nolan was suggested as an interesting policing mechanism!!

Image: BBTpic1:

LTR Brendan McConville - Chairman Buddy Bear Trust School,  Dr Bronagh Byrne – Research Fellow (Children’s Rights) Centre for Effective Education, Queen’s University, Steven Agnew MLA – Leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, Ross Brown – Researcher to Steven Agnew MLA, Shannon O’Connell - Moderator

To participate and share your views on Steven Agnew's Private Member's Bill visit

download the consultation questionnaire and return your answers by June 1, 2012

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