Written Answers. - Psychological Service.

Michael Creed

Question:

692 Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has satisfied himself that all current employees of the national education psychological service have adequate office accommodation with the appropriate information technology and administrative support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8229/01]

The national educational psychological service agency is a dedicated executive agency of my Department. When the agency was established, it was agreed that it would expand in an orderly and phased way, beginning in 1999. My Department is committed to ensuring that it is appropriately supported in all areas in order to enable it to deliver a quality educational psychological service.

I understand that intensive discussions are ongoing between NEPS, my Department and, where appropriate, the Office of Public Works, with the objective of developing and implementing strategies aimed at meeting the needs of NEPS in the areas referred to by the Deputy. My Department will continue to facilitate the achievement of that objective.

Michael Creed

Question:

693 Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of whole-time psychological posts envisaged by the national education psychological service as necessary for the provision of an adequate psychological service to the education sector; and if the NEPS is on target in its recruitment campaign in terms of providing the necessary level of service. [8230/01]

The planning group established to prepare proposals for a national educational psychological service recommended,inter alia, in its September 1998 report, that the Minister for Education and Science should establish a national educational psychological service agency as an executive agency of his Department. The report also recommended that the agency would have an overall target number of 200 psychologists and 36 administrative-secretarial staff.

The new NEPS agency as proposed came into existence on 1 September 1999 with the 42 psychologists already employed in the service. The recruitment of additional psychologists involved the organisation of a competition through the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission. Notwithstanding the time consuming nature of such competitions there are now 82 psychologists in NEPS and by the end of this school year there will be 100 psychologists in the service. It is also intended to proceed with the recruitment of a further 28 psychologists before the end of this calendar year. This will raise the staffing to 128 and greatly improve the service.

Michael Creed

Question:

694 Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in the appointment of a full-time director of the national education psychological service; and his views on whether the absence of a full-time director makes it more difficult to roll out the new service. [8231/01]

To ensure a smooth transition from the existing psychological service of my Department to the new national educational psychological service agency, an acting director was appointed in June 1999. This is a full-time post and, although it is an acting post, it is my view that any delay in the appointment of a permanent director has not affected the roll out of the agency.

It is the intention of my Department to advertise the permanent post of director of NEPS in the near future.

Michael Creed

Question:

695 Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has satisfied himself that there is adequate co-ordination between the education and health sector in the provision of psychological services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8232/01]

The planning group for the national educational psychological service agency included two representatives of the Department of Health and Children. In addition, its advisory technical working group included two psychologists from the health sector.

One of the recommendations in the planning group report was: "That a national educational psychological service should be well integrated in the education system as a whole but be co-ordinated with psychological and related services in the health sector."

This co-ordination is being effected at national, regional and local level. At national level, the Department of Health and Children and the health boards are represented on the manage ment committee and on the national policy advisory board of NEPS. The voluntary bodies that provide services to children with disabilities are also represented on the national policy advisory board. Their contribution to these committees has been most valuable. The representative of the Department of Health and Children has unfortunately had to resign from the management committee but steps are being taken to secure a replacement.
The management committee has established a joint NEPS-health board working party to examine and make recommendations about practical issues in relation to referral and assessment of children. This working party is expected to report in September. It is being advised by an internal NEPS survey of best practice in terms of effective liaison.
In order to ensure effective co-ordination at regional level, NEPS is organised in ten regions equivalent to the ten health board regions. As part of the roll out of NEPS, a number of assistant regional directors will be appointed each year until ten are in post. One of the major responsibilities of each assistant director will be to ensure effective liaison with the relevant health board.
At local level, a series of meetings is being held with the voluntary bodies that provide services to children with disabilities, in order to agree on the respective roles and responsibilities of NEPS psychologists and the psychologists employed by the voluntary bodies.
Psychologists in the Department of Education and Science have always worked closely with their colleagues in the health sector in relation to individual children and this practice continues.