I wish to assure the Deputy that ensuring that children with special educational needs are supported and given the opportunity to reach their full potential is a key priority for this government.
In 2018, almost €1.8 billion will be invested in Special Education. This represents an increase of almost 43% since 2011 and amounts to almost 20% of the Department’s overall Budget.
During the worst years of the recession this Government not only protected supports for children with special educational needs but we grew them.
The National Council for Special Education’s Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders was published in July 2016. The report acknowledges that there has been substantial investment in the education of students with autism over the 14 years since the publication of the last major report on autism in 2001. The report sets out 11 recommendations for further improvement and outlines associated actions to give effect to its recommendations.
My Department has convened an Implementation Group with representatives of the NCSE, NEPS, the Inspectorate and external representatives to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered and that a timetable for implementation is prepared. The NCSE estimates that implementing the school based recommendations in the report will cost an additional €20m per annum. The work of the Implementation Group is ongoing.