Written answers

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

Early Childhood Care and Education

Johnny Mythen (Wexford, Sinn Fein)
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204. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the steps being taken to replace the preschool services in areas (details supplied); and the preschool services that will be provided or made available in both areas for children with psychical and intellectual disabilities . [10954/21]

Roderic O'Gorman (Dublin West, Green Party)
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My Department does not own or manage preschool services. My Department does, however, provide funding to mainstream pre-school services, including through the universal, free, two-year Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme and the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM).

AIM is a programme of supports to enable children with a disability to access and meaningfully participate in the ECCE programme. It includes 7 levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted. AIM supports are available through all mainstream pre-school settings that are funded through the ECCE Programme.

In addition to the supports provided through AIM in mainstream settings, pre-school services are also offered in a limited number of specialist pre-schools and early intervention classes which cater exclusively for children with disabilities, which fall within the remit of the HSE or the Department of Education.

The degree of support provided through AIM depends on the needs of the child in the context of the pre-school setting they are attending. The levels of support are:

- Level 1, which aims to embed an inclusive culture in services, includes the national inclusion policy and guidelines for ECCE, the funding of the LINC training programme in Leadership for Inclusion, the establishment of Inclusion Co-Ordinator roles in ECCE settings, and a small increase in capitation for services with qualified Inclusion Coordinators.

- Level 2 involves provision of information for parents and providers on AIM, through the AIM.gov.ie website and information provided by County/City Childcare Committees.

- Level 3 recognises the requirement to continue to develop a qualified workforce that can confidently meet the needs of all children wishing to participate in the ECCE Programme. Supports include funding of training courses such as Hanen, Lámh and Sensory Processing E-Learning (SPEL).

- Level 4 addresses the needs of early years practitioners to have timely access to advice and support from experts in early years education (and disability in particular) to assist them meet each child’s needs.

- Level 5 recognises that some children require specialised equipment, appliances, assistive technology and/or that some early years settings may require minor structural alterations to ensure children with a disability can participate in the ECCE Programme. Supports include grants for equipment and some capital building works for a service.

- Level 6 provides access to therapeutic supports where they are critical to enable the child be enrolled, and fully participate, in the ECCE Programme.

- Level 7: Additional Assistance in the Pre-School Room involves additional capitation for service providers where an application process has demonstrated that supports Level 1-6 have not, or will not, by themselves, meet the child’s needs. Funding can be used by the provider to buy in additional support, or reduce the staff / child ratio, supporting the Pre-School Leader to ensure the child’s optimal participation.

Local County Childcare Committees (CCC) help provide information on pre-school settings in their locality that may have capacity for children, including those with physical and intellectual disabilities, to attend. The Wexford County Childcare Committee can be reached at: Tel. 053 9237156/053 9239763, Email info@wexfordchildcare.ie, Website: www.wexfordchildcare.ie.

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