South Belfast SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt met with carers, teachers, families and children from Glenveagh Special School as they protested on the steps of Stormont against the loss of funds for music therapy provision in special schools here.
Mr McDevitt has backed the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust petitioning the Health Minister regarding the potential loss of the service to 600 children and young people.
Anne Moore, department head at Glenveagh said: “Music therapy is absolutely essential as it has a tremendous impact on the children's communication's skills and they get tremendous enjoyment from it.”
She added: “Basically the cuts mean there will no longer be a music therapist at the school. The teachers here are only educators; the music therapist's position is so vital to the children's well-being and development. It will be a significant blow to both the staff and the children.”
Mr McDevitt said the service was vital: “Many of these children have no verbal communication skills and the only way they can get a message across is via music therapy.
“Music therapy is often financed as an additional service in schools but it makes a significant impact for children who have such limited understanding and difficulty with communication.
“This is a very cost effective therapy which works and any cuts will have a disastrous affect on a vulnerable group of young people
Fiona Davidson, director of Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust (NIMTT) said: “Music therapy has become an essential part of their health care.
“It is hard to understand how removing this vital front line service will address the budgetary shortfall.”
Emma Donnelly, of Tor Bank Special School in Dundonald, added: “We are absolutely horrified that such a vital service for vulnerable children is being taken away.
“At the minute it is free and should remain free, parents cannot be expected to pay for the service.”