Thursday, 5 May 2016
Department of Health
Special Educational Needs Service Provision
The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme, is the responsibility of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has brought forward a new model of supports to facilitate the full participation of children with a disability in the ECCE Programme. The new model will provide supports including enhanced continuing professional development for early years practitioners; grants for equipment, appliances and minor alterations; and access to therapeutic intervention. Funding of €15m has been provided to phase these supports in during 2016. Full year costs for these supports are estimated to be €33m from 2017 onwards. This model of supports was launched on 18th November last by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with my full support and the support of my Government colleague Jan O'Sullivan T.D., Minister for Education and Skills.
Improving access to therapy services for children in primary care and in disability services is a particular priority for the Government. Building on additional investment in recent years, funding of €8m is being provided to the HSE in 2016 to expand the provision of Speech and Language Therapy in primary care and the further development of early intervention therapy services under the Progressing Disabilities Programme to facilitate the inclusion of children with a disability in mainstream pre-school settings, as part of the roll-out of the new inclusive preschools model.
It should be noted that while the Health Service Executive has no statutory obligation to provide assistant supports for children with special needs wishing to avail of the ECCE scheme, it has, to date, worked at local level and in partnership with the relevant disability service providers to address individual needs as they arise. This has been done, for example, by funding special pre-schools that cater specifically for children with disabilities. In some limited and specific cases at local level, disability services have in the past also facilitated children with a disability to attend mainstream pre-schools by providing additional supports where possible and where resources are available. The provision of such additional pre-school supports should not be confused with Special Needs Assistants, who are funded by the Department of Education and Skills to support children with special educational needs in primary and post-primary school settings.
Within this context, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the individual case he has raised. If you have not received a reply from the HSE within 15 working days please contact my Private Office and they will follow up the matter with them.