Written answers

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Department of Education and Skills

School Costs

Rose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein)
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278. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the crisis regarding insurance for special schools (details supplied) in which insurance is no longer available under their patron body; and the measures being taken to ensure these schools can remain open after the deadline of 31 March 2020. [3359/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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My Department is aware of very significant increases in insurance costs in some special schools, through correspondence received from some special schools, discussions with the National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education (NABMSE) and media reports.

These increases appear due, in some instances, to an annual increase in insurance costs generally and, in some cases, an increase in claims against special schools.

While securing and maintaining adequate and appropriate insurance cover is a matter for the managerial authority of each school, my Department has been working as a matter of urgency with NABMSE and relevant Government departments, including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the State Claims Agency, to seek a resolution to the issue of increased insurance costs in special schools.

A number of options were identified to address the issue and the development of a group insurance scheme for special schools appeared to be the most viable option

NABMSE agreed to act as contracting agent and 47 special schools subsequently signed up for the Group Scheme option.

A tender went to market on 20 September 2019. The outcome of this initial tendering process, which was completed late last year, has been disappointing and has not provided NABMSE with options for the establishment of a group scheme, which at a minimum, would provide for a stabilisation of premium rates for individual schools.

My Department was updated on the outcome of this tendering process at a meeting last December.

In 2019, a number of special schools contacted my Department directly, advising of financial

difficulties arising from significant increases in insurance premiums, ranging between 30% to over 700% in the last 2 years. My Department has advanced school capitation payments on an exceptional basis to a small number of affected special schools, where they have made direct contact, advising of significant increases in their insurance costs. 

The capitation grant is provided to schools to cater for day to day running costs. Where an advance in capitation is made, my Department will take into account the amount of capitation due to the respective schools, and the impact a full recoupment at once might have on the ability of those schools to meet other costs. With this in mind, my Department will engage with individual schools on methods of recoupment that are manageable.

It is not sustainable however for my Department to continue to advance capitation payments as a way of meeting vastly increased insurance premiums.

Officials of my Department are continuing to engage as a matter of urgency, with NABMSE and relevant Government departments, including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the State Claims Agency in order to achieve a resolution to insurance issues for impacted special schools.

Three of the four special schools referred to by the Deputy have recently contacted my Department directly in relation to issues of increasing insurance costs. My Department are engaging with these schools currently. 

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