Written Answers. - Education Welfare Act.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

24 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science when he intends to provide the necessary infrastructure and resources to effectively implement the Education Welfare Act, 2000, specifically in a number of areas (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21673/02]

The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, provides for the establishment of the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance issues. The board is now fully established as an independent body and is comprised of people representing school management, teachers, parents, the school attendance service, the voluntary sector and a number of Departments with an involvement in child welfare issues.

The board has responsibility for the development of a welfare-based service, accessible to parents and schools throughout the country. The new service is intended to take the focus away from the former prosecutorial approach to a welfare based approach, aimed at assisting children at risk and, in co-operation with schools, parents and other relevant bodies, to provide a range of supports and strategies to discourage absenteeism and early school leaving.

An interim chief executive officer was appointed by the board in mid August. The board is moving ahead with the recruitment of its senior management and head office staff at this time. In addition, the former school attendance officers, and senior related grades, have transferred from the relevant local authorities to the board, in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

The educational welfare service is a major new national service. The board, advised by its staff, will be developing and submitting proposals to my Department for the recruitment of educational welfare officers as soon as possible. The board, advised by its staff, will also be developing detailed proposals for the operation and phasing-in of the new service and these will be conveyed to schools when ready.
The new service will be phased in over a period of time. As this is a major new service, with a new approach and new systems, it is not possible to be specific at this stage in regard to the timeframe that the provision of the full service will entail. It is, however, the board's intention that, in rolling out the new service, priority will be given to those children who are not in receipt of an education and to areas of high disadvantage.
It is the board's intention, and mine, that the new service will be in place as speedily as possible.
Question No. 25 answered with Question No. 10.