Thursday, 5 March 2020
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Special Educational Needs Service Provision
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1077 and 1078 together.
AIM Level 7 provides additional assistance in the pre-school room where this is critical to ensuring a child’s participation in the free ECCE preschool programme. In line with emerging best practice to support the integration and independence of children with a disability, AIM does not fund Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). Rather, it provides financial support to the pre-school provider, which can be used either to reduce the adult to child ratio in the pre-school room or to buy in additional assistance to the pre-school room. Accordingly, AIM Level 7 assistance is a shared resource for the pre-school setting.
AIM level 7 funding is allocated in response to need, reflecting both the needs of the child and the needs of the specific pre-school setting that the child attends, and is not allocated on the basis of diagnosis. Assessments of a child's needs in the context of the pre-school setting are made by Better Start early years specialists.
In the case to which the Deputy's question refers, a Better Start early years specialist carried out both a telephone review and an observation visit to the setting. It was found that AIM Level 7 funding was not critical to the child's meaningful participation in the pre-school setting. In this case the ratio of staff to children in the room was deemed sufficient to support the child's needs. AIM Level 4 supports, which involve the provision of expert educational advice and mentoring by Better Start to the setting, were recommended to be sufficient in this case.