Wednesday, 1 February 2017
Department of Education and Skills
National Educational Psychological Service Staff
179. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of whole-time equivilent NEPS positions that will be recruited in County Louth under the recruitment competition put in place by the Public Appointments Service; and the current whole-time equivalent NEPS staff complement in County Louth. [4726/17]
As the Deputy may be aware my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides an educational psychological service to schools through the direct assignment of a NEPS psychologist and in some cases through by providing schools access to the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA) where schools can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. SCPA is utilised, in the main, where, as yet unfilled, vacancies exist in NEPS staffing provision locally or where staffing resource is lost through extended leave (maternity, sick or carer’s leave).
Co. Louth is part of the NEPS North-East region comprising three offices (Navan, Cavan and Drogheda) providing service to schools in Meath, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. The Region currently has four vacancies. The Drogheda office providing service in the main to Co. Louth schools has a staffing complement of seven psychologists (6.2 whole-time equivalents). Currently four of these staff (3.4 w.t.e) are on extended leave and three of these who are on maternity leave are not expected to return before the end of the current academic year.
The Deputy will be aware that a new national recruitment competition has been put in place by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) to fill vacancies within all NEPS Regions. The resulting interview process associated with this competition will be completed in the current week immediately following which recruitment panels for each NEPS region will be formed. PAS will then finalise the processing of the candidates, including Garda vetting, and propose each candidate in series to my Department Human Resources Section for contract negotiations and formal job offer.
It is envisaged that the process will produce the four new NEPS psychologists required by the North East Region during this academic year which will improve the coverage of schools in the region, including those in Co. Louth. The return of Drogheda Office staff from maternity leave will have further effect in this regard from the start of the next academic year.
However it is important to point out that in cases where NEPS service is not available through staffing vacancy or temporary absence of staff, as described above, the schools affected continue to have access to a psychologist through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments to undertake pupil assessment work.
I would also confirm that all schools continue to be able to access full NEP supports in the event of a critical incident irrespective of their having ongoing access to an assigned NEPS psychologist or not.