Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (357)

Finian McGrath


465 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science to investigate definitions (details supplied) in the Education of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1596/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I moved an amendment to the definition of disability in the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003 on Committee Stage on 5 January. At that time, I stated why I felt that the definition now in the Bill is the most practical. I also said that, in light of our discussions on Committee Stage, I would reconsider the definition of disability to see if it could be improved upon. However, I am of the view that to accept the Deputy's suggestion would be to extend the definition of disability unduly and I believe that would be counter-productive.

The provision of education services for the majority of children in our primary and post-primary schools is governed by the Education Act 1998. This Bill is intended to benefit those who most need assistance in accessing education services and I have no wish to dilute the attention due to them by attempting to cater to needs beyond those caused by a disability. It is essential that the conditions which attract the benefits of the Bill are enduring so as to ensure that vital resources are used for those who really need them. The remainder of the definition in the Bill as it stands provides a sensible base from which to determine who has a disability for the purposes of the Bill and more importantly who will benefit from the very focused and specialised educational provision which will be made as a result of it.