A District Court in a provincial city renewed Supervision Orders for six months for two Traveller children who were not attending school.
The court heard that their parents had been prosecuted a number of times under the Education and Welfare Act for not sending the children, aged 10 and 14, to school. They had received a number of suspended sentences and the father was at the time of the hearing serving a short prison sentence.
One of the children had behavioural difficulties in school and a place had been found for him in a special school, according to the Child and Family Agency solicitor. Some progress had been made with their school attendance.
A social worker told the court there were no concerns about the health of the children or their attachment to their parents. The only issue was their education. There had been difficulty in getting a school place but that had now been sorted out.
Asked if the parents understood the alternatives to a Supervision Order, the social worker said they did, and were struggling to get their children to go to school. But they needed to engage consistently with services. The parents’ solicitor said that his clients had been engaging and this new school was a great opportunity. They had been inclined to travel to visit family, but they agreed with the order being sought.
The judge asked the social worker about the family’s accommodation, and she replied that they were in a mobile home and the CFA was looking for alternative accommodation.
The judge asked if the children were not attending school because they were Travellers. The social worker replied that they had not said that. “Have they been referred to Traveller organisations like Pavee Point to explain that it is not a negative thing to engage in education?” the judge asked. “I don’t want this to be a conflict between settled people and Travellers.”
The parents’ solicitor said that they had never raised the issue of being Travellers as a reason for the children not going to school. Renewing the Supervision Order the judge said: “The fact that the father is spending three weeks in jail suggests to me there is a problem here.”