Written Answers. - Psychological Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

169 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures which are being taken to ensure that children in need of psychological assessment in primary schools receive such an assessment as the need is identified. [15189/02]

The National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, Agency was established on 1 September 1999 and is an executive agency of my Department. NEPS has delegated authority to develop an educational psychological service to all students in primary and post-primary schools. Provision of psychological assessments is part of the work of the educational psychologists in NEPS.

My Department issued learning support guidelines to all schools in 2000. These contain a detailed strategy for the early identification of children who may need psychological assessment. The educational psychologists in NEPS provide further advice to schools on the identification and screening of children who might need to be assessed. As NEPS does not yet have sufficient staff in post to provide a psychological service to all schools, my Department allocated, in summer 2001, funding for NEPS to administer a scheme for commissioning psychological assessments from private practitioners. This scheme is a short-term, interim measure pending the expansion of the service provided by NEPS to all schools.

NEPS management has conducted a review of the scheme's operation over the past year and has reported the findings to top management in my Department. I intend to continue to operate the scheme for a further school year and to allow increased access in needy cases to the available funding. By the end of the next school year, NEPS should have reached its full staffing quota and therefore should be able to provide a full psychological service to all schools.