Altnagelvin Hospital school closure plans face opposition

Education Minister John O'Dowd has announced plans to close school facilities for kids at Altnagelvin Hospital.
Education Minister John O'Dowd has announced plans to close school facilities for kids at Altnagelvin Hospital.

Plans to close a school for sick kids at Altnagelvin Hospital are being opposed by a group calling itself the Stop the Cuts Campaign (SCC).

The proposed closure of the Altnagelvin Hospital School and Tuition Service was announced recently by Education Minister John O’Dowd.

However, according to the Stop the Cuts Campaign, the move will have a “devastating blow” on the education of many children and teenagers that is “frequently disrupted by admission to hospital due to their medical, social, emotional or behavioural needs.”

Earlier this month, John O’Dowd said there was no longer a requirement for the service as “alternative services are in place” and children “no longer routinely remain in hospital for more than five days”.

Stop the Cuts has branded the Minister’s statement as a “disgraceful attempt to excuse cuts to this essential service.”

Spokesperson Pat Lawlor added: “John O’Dowd knows fine well that, with over £5 million in cuts already taken from the WELB and much more to come, this service will be run into the ground as he and his partners in the Executive impose their cuts agenda.

“He is quick to discount the many young people required to stay in hospital from chronic conditions along with the on-going rise in mental health problems among our children who also require admission to hospital. This service is an essential part of providing a sense of normality and maintaining their education while receiving treatment.

“What is required is more investment in services not another cut. This closure again exposes the Assembly Executive’s support for devastating cuts to public services.”

The SCC says it will support any workplace and community campaign built in opposition to the closure of the Altnagelvin Hospital School and Tuition Service.

“The trade unions, through their local branches, must organise public meetings and protests to put pressure on local councillors and MLAs to come out in opposition against the closure of this service,” added Pat Lawlor.

The Stop the Cuts Campaign was launched in the summer of 2010 by trade unions and anti-cuts activists to unite all those opposed to cuts to jobs and services.