Written answers

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Department of Health and Children

Child Care Services

2:30 pm

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Question 139: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will support the setting up the European Missing Childline number of 116000. [4608/11]

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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The issue of children who go missing is primarily a matter for the Garda Síochána. A hotline for missing children is in operation in some EU Member States. My Office is currently involved in discussions with other relevant Government Departments in relation to the establishment of this service.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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Question 140: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will grant a second year of pre-school education to a child (details supplied) under the early childhood care and education scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4614/11]

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I have responsibility for the implementation of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which was introduced in January 2010.

The ECCE scheme is a universal scheme which provides children with a free pre-school year prior to commencing primary school. There is no entitlement under the scheme to any additional provision. The scheme does, however, include a number of provisions to take account of children with special needs. These include an exemption from the upper age limit for qualification under the scheme where a child is developmentally delayed and would benefit from starting primary school at a later age. In addition, children with special needs can apply to have the pre-school year split over two years on a pro-rata basis, for example availing of the scheme for 2 days a week in the first year and for 3 days a week in the second year.

It is recognised that the introduction of the scheme has raised a number of issues in relation to service provision and supports for children with special needs and the need to ensure a coherent approach across both specialist and mainstream settings. While many children with special needs may require specialist services, others will benefit from attending mainstream services or a mixture of the two. To achieve these outcomes, earlier this year this Office asked the Office of Disability and Mental Health to set up a Working Group to look at existing services and supports and the allocation of resources for pre-school children with special needs. This Group is expected to report shortly following which the arrangements for children with special needs under the ECCE scheme will be further considered.

In the meantime while the scheme as initiated does not provide for any additional provision for children with special needs, a limited number of children with severe disabilities who had availed of the scheme in the introductory short-year period of January to June 2010, were approved on an exceptional basis for re-entry to the scheme in September 2010, the first full year of the scheme. Each request was examined taking account of the information provided in detailed assessment reports. In the case referred to by the Deputy, the information provided to my Office did not confirm a diagnosis of severe disability for the child in question and re-entry to the scheme was not approved.

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