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Children with additional needs in Armagh ‘bottom of council’s priorities’

Armagh city centre toilets

Concerns have been raised over “padlocked” disabled toilets in Armagh city centre as well as access to the Orchard Leisure Centre with one councillor hitting out at the lack of inclusivity for families of children with additional needs.

Armagh city councillor Sarah Duffy says she fears children with special needs and their families are “at the bottom of the Council’s priorities”.

The Sinn Féin elected representative was contacted by a distressed resident – the parent of a child with additional needs – in relation to the disabled toilets in the city being padlocked.

Cllr Duffy explained: “I recently received a concerning email from a constituent who is a parent of a child with additional needs.

“The detail of the email is alarming to say the least. The parent highlights the ‘inclusive hour’ over St Patrick’s weekend in Armagh city, where disabled toilets were padlocked, resulting in some children having to leave the event.”

Speaking on the broader issue of accessibility to council amenities for those with special or additional needs, the Councillor added: “The barriers that children with additional needs in Armagh city continue to face include when trying to access swimming lessons in the Orchard Leisure Centre.

“For over two years now parents have been given the same response – ‘staff are undergoing specialist training’.

“As of today lessons still aren’t available; in 2024 this is simply not good enough. These children are being failed.”

The Sinn Féin councillor continued: “Children with additional needs face a unique set of challenges that can often be magnified by the lack of inclusive services.

“It is essential that our council provides the necessary resources and support systems to help our children thrive and reach their full potential.

“By not addressing this issue, we are failing to uphold the principles of equality and inclusivity that are fundamental to a caring and compassionate society.

“While I’m aware that our council has come a long way to improve inclusive services, this feedback highlights that there is a long way to go. Many families and carers do feel that they are at the bottom of our council’s priorities.

“I would ask that council acts urgently to find solutions in the interest of our children and young people.”

A Council spokesperson said: “Creating a more accessible, inclusive borough for people with disabilities is a key priority for Council.

“We are aware that some issues have been raised in relation to disabled toilets and are currently investigating these.”

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