Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (1337)

Jackie Cahill


1337. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of an application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18760/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department has no record of an application for another preschool year in respect of the child named. I would urge the child's parents to submit an application as soon as possible which will be reviewed by officials within my Department .

Current policy requires that any request for an exemption from ECCE eligibility must be supported by a letter from a medical specialist (not a GP/PHN) specifically recommending an exemption from the upper age limit to the ECCE programme for the child.

Examples of the type of specialist recommendations accepted are as follows:

Speech & Language Therapist; Occupational Therapist; Senior Psychologist; Physiotherapist; Paediatrician/developmental; Neurologist; Psychiatrist; Psychotherapist; Cardiologist; Oncologist; Ophthalmologist; Otolaryngologist (ENT specialist); Gastroenterologist.

This is not an exhaustive list; however it provides an example of what is accepted.

Applications for exemptions from ECCE eligibility can be made to or by posting all relevant documentation to the following address: Early Years Division, Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Block 1 - Floor 2, Miesian Plaza, 50-58 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2, D02 XW14.

It must be noted, however, that the overage exemption process has recently been the subject of a consultation process and report by the National Disability Authority (NDA). Officials from my Department are now considering policy options following on from this report. The new policy will consider the future of the system of exemptions and how best to support parents and children in the important transition from pre-school to primary school. It is worth stressing that the only rationale underpinning these considerations is what is in the best interests of the child. I would also note that research shows broad agreement that it is in the best interest of the child to start school with their peers.Until such time as any new policy proposals are in place, I have stated that the current system will continue. Overage Exemptions currently provided by my Department are governed by three guiding principles as follows:

· A Letter of Recommendation supplied from a specialist (NB: Not a GP/PHN)· Child's age - not being over 6 years of age during the exemption year (as per Educational Welfare Act, 2000)· ECCE Allocation taken - if a child has had the full 2 years they will not be eligible.

I would stress that each application for an exemption is considered on its own merits and never in the context of the outcome of any other case.