Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Questions (134, 135)

Finian McGrath

Question:

247 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if a full-time special needs assistant will be granted to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and it they will be given the maximum support and assistance. [2416/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

Special educational resource, SER, applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

Applications for special education needs supports received after 1 September 2003 will be considered as soon as the applications mentioned above have been processed. This includes the application for the pupil to whom the Deputy refers which was received in my Department on 22 October 2003.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

248 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if a special computer and software will be supplied to that person; if a needs assistant will be granted and learning support provided to that person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2418/04]

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The fund for students with disabilities provides funding to students with disabilities attending courses in third level institutions and in post-leaving certificate centres.

The purpose of the fund is to provide students with serious physical and/or sensory disabilities with grant assistance towards the cost of special equipment, special materials and technological aids, targeted transport services, personal assistants and sign language interpreters. The fund operates on a discretionary basis.

Applications were submitted to my Department in October 2003, together with relevant supporting documentation, for consideration for funding for the current academic year. Decisions on those applications were taken by anad hoc advisory group which, in 2003, consisted of representatives of my Department, a representative from the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability, or AHEAD, and a representative from the recently established National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education within the Higher Education Authority.

In the case of the applicant in question, it was considered that, while some assistance could be approved, insufficient documentation was supplied with the application to approve all the supports requested. The student support unit of my Department has advised the student in question that his application can be considered further in the event of more recent, relevant documentation being provided through the disability officer in the third level institution attended by the student.