Thursday, 26 September 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Autism Support Services
I should be clear that the Government is determined to ensure every child is allocated a school place and to use the legislation when it must, when it is appropriate and when it is advised to do so by the NCSE. I forget the history of the various amendments to the legislation but it is great if this House contributed to making the necessary changes and that Act is now working. It is what the House is for. We try to take on board amendments from everybody when we can and they are right.
This part of the legislation was formally used for the first time on 18 April by the NCSE in informing the Minister of a shortage of school places in Dublin 15. The NCSE had to make the case to the Minister that this legislation had to be used, and that is what happened in April. The NCSE is aware of a number of children still seeking specialist places and it continues to work with schools and patrons to establish this educational provision. The council takes the approach of trying to work with schools and parents to make this happen without the need for the provisions in the legislation. We are not afraid to use it when the need is there, as we have proven. The NCSE is actively engaging at a local level with schools, patron bodies and the families concerned to resolve the issues involved as soon as possible. If, following completion of the work, the NCSE establishes there is still a shortage of places in either area, it may inform the Minister by activating the provisions contained in the Education Act 1998. Funding for provision of home tuition is available to parents as a short-term intervention until school placement is available.
I understand the funding is there to match need. There are often issues but these are not always related to money. The provisions of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 are used when required but there is a process in getting to that. It is not for a Minister to decide that he or she will intervene on a specific day. It must come through the NCSE in the process that has been working well in this country for a number of years.