Joint Oireachtas Disability Matters Committee Members Witness Transformative Impact of National Learning Network

National Learning Network Ballyfermot centre

Members of the Joint Oireachtas Disability Matters Committee visited National Learning Network (NLN) Ballyfermot on the 14th of February as part of a campaign by the specialist training provider to access funds and support to safeguard its future. NLN, the education and training division of the Rehab Group, provides life-changing education and training. Each year, NLN empowers thousands of people with disabilities and mental health challenges across communities in Ireland to achieve qualifications, develop resilience skills, progress to further and higher education, and secure jobs.

Since last year, National Learning Network students have been writing to their local public representatives to highlight the positive impact that NLN has had on so many people’s lives and to ask for support to sustain this life-changing education and training service into the future. This campaign, ‘Letters for Learning’, saw students presenting their letters to public representatives at Leinster House in December.

Recently, members of the Joint Oireachtas Disability Matters Committee, including Deputy Michael Moynihan, Deputy Pauline Tully, Deputy Dessie Ellis, Senator Mary Seery Kearney, Senator Eileen Flynn, and Senator Tom Clonan, convened with NLN Ballyfermot students. The students shared their journeys and experiences, underscoring the critical role that NLN plays in their lives. NLN’s impact extends far beyond individual success stories; it fosters higher earning capabilities, tax contributions, and reduced reliance on social welfare, benefiting individuals and society. NLN specialises in catering to diverse needs, including those of autistic individuals or those who struggle in conventional educational settings.

Since 2020, over 1,653 NLN students have progressed to further and higher education, while an additional 950 have secured employment, including placements in esteemed companies such as Meta, Cook Medical, and Mr. Price. NLN’s personalised approach continues to break barriers, enabling thousands to participate actively in society, access education, and secure meaningful employment.

Despite its invaluable contributions, NLN faces funding shortfalls, with core funding remaining stagnant since 2011. The urgent need for a sustainable funding model to cover essential costs and address the diverse needs of students is paramount. NLN advocates for a multi-annual funding approach to ensure the continuity of its transformative services.

Lucianne Bird, Director of Learning at the Rehab Group, emphasised NLN’s holistic approach, empowering each student to overcome limitations and embrace opportunities for inclusion in society. “The visit of the Committee to NLN Ballyfermot underscores the significance of NLN’s mission and the pressing need for adequate funding to continue its life-changing work. We are delighted Committee members took the time this week to visit one of our centres and to hear first-hand the impact NLN makes on people’s lives every day. NLN remains committed to its core philosophy of leaving no one behind, but the looming funding challenges threaten its ability to fulfil this commitment. A robust funding model is imperative to sustain NLN’s invaluable services and ensure accessibility for those who need it most.”

National Learning Network has multiple locations across Dublin, including Tallaght, Stillorgan, Swords, Phibsboro, Mulhuddart, Ballyfermot, and the city centre.

Pictured: Members of Oireachtas Joint Committee on Disability Matters visit students and staff of National Learning Network Ballyfermot centre on the 14th of February. 

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Sarah Brooks

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