Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs Staff
198. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 220 of 20 October 2018, if progress has been made in relation to allocating breastfeeding breaks for SNAs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9336/19]
As previously advised, Circular letter 17/2013issued by my Department, deals with the Maternity Protection entitlements, including provision for breastfeeding, for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in Recognised Primary and Post-Primary Schools. Paragraph 14.1 of Circular 0017/2013 states: " Within a twenty six week period after the birth of the child, a special needs assistant who has returned to work is entitled to one hour per day for the purpose of breastfeeding. The time off, without loss of pay, may be taken as follows:(a) one break of 60 minutes, or(b) two breaks of 30 minutes each, or(c) three breaks of 20 minutes each.”Following consultation with school and staff representatives my Department issued Circular 60/2018 which increased the entitlement to breastfeeding breaks for teachers. The extension of these provisions to SNAs is still under consideration.
199. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding guideline changes issued by his Department and the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, for SNAs in relation to intimate care needs policy (details supplied); if there has been consultation with SNAs regarding the change; the protections in place for SNAs that feel vulnerable in an intimate care setting without a witness; if these guidelines have been signed into law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9338/19]
Individual school authorities are responsible for the management and effective deployment of Special Needs Assistants within their school. School management authorities are also responsible for ensuring there are up to date policies and procedures in place in relation to child protection. In carrying out their functions, school management must have regard to the law, relevant Departmental circulars and guidance. The principal has overall responsibility for the day to day leadership and management of all staff in the school including responsibility for ensuring that staff understand their roles and responsibilities. Where staff have concerns, these should be raised with local school management in the first instance.
With regard to the management of the intimate care needs of children in schools, my Department is of the view that there is a need to strike a balance between adequately protecting the child on the one hand and preserving the child's dignity on the other. In general therefore, there is no requirement for two SNAs to be present in the management of intimate care needs situations. Schools are required to have a care plan for each student for whom SNA support is provided and the SNA role in supporting the student should be agreed with parents as part of the care plan.
In the context of its Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme, the NCSE has recommended that guidance be prepared for schools in this area and this is currently being considered by my Department.