By PHILIP CHANDLER
A severely-disabled Queenstown four-year-old may miss schooling because his caregiver’s in danger of being booted out of the country.
Lana McLuskey, from Scotland, has offered valuable one-on-one support to Levi Vallance at Gem’s childcare centre since early last year.
She’s also had her visa varied to allow her to work up to 14 hours a week with him at his home.
On turning five next month, Levi’s due to start at Shotover Primary, which is ready to employ McLuskey as his teacher aide for 25 hours a week.
Immigration New Zealand, however, says she needs to be sponsored for at least 30 hours per week, so won’t renew her visa.
That’s despite Ministry of Health being prepared to continue funding her for 10 to 14 hours a week of at-home support for Levi, meaning she’d easily pass the 30 hours-a-week requirement.
Shotover Primary also advertised the teacher’s aide position to see if a suitable Kiwi was available, but got no response.
Local MP Hamish Walker says he’s “pushing very hard’ to influence Immigration NZ’s decision, and is “very thankful” the Associate Minister of Immigration is looking into the case.
He’s observed “the wonderful and trusting relationship between Levi and his caregiver”.
“They have a close bond, and much of Levi’s progress has been down to Lana’s support.
“It’s absolutely critical Lana is allowed to stay in NZ to ensure Levi has the support from the right person who has the skills and experience.”
Walker says kids at Gem’s “absolutely love Levi – from what I hear, he’s a bit of a rock star”.
“I’m sure he’ll be a bit of a rock star at Shotover Primary School.”
Levi’s mum, Lauren Moore, says he’s making great progress from his one-on-one sessions with McLuskey due to her “experience, knowledge, rapport and personality”.
“Lana’s attended so many of his therapy sessions and she knows all of his therapists.”
With going to school being “a massive change for Levi”, Moore says he couldn’t cope without her.
“He wouldn’t be able to go to school with someone who doesn’t know how to manage and help him, yet to go to school is his right.
“We have had great support from his therapists and Gem’s has been phenomenal, but there are some massive flaws in the system, and without Lana, Levi would be a bit stuck.”
McLuskey says it’s “a shock” she might be forced to leave NZ.
“I just wish [Immigration NZ] met Levi and me and saw how well we get on.
“Compared to a year-and-a-half ago, he’s so much better, it’s just unreal.
“When he does something amazing I’m just, like, nearly crying.”
Immigration NZ wasn’t able to respond to Mountain Scene by deadline.