I am conscious that the school completion programme, SCP, continues to deliver a valuable service for some of our most vulnerable young people. Currently, the SCP receives annual funding of €24.7 million. My Department works with the educational welfare service, EWS, to ensure that necessary resources are available to support this programme and to ensure staffing levels are sufficient to deliver a high quality service for those young people most at risk of early school leaving. A number of long term complex issues continue to exist, however, regarding both the governance and the staffing of the programme.
In this regard and in recognition of the need for a strong policy platform for educational welfare services, including the SCP, I requested my officials establish a task group to support the further development and integration of these services. The work of this group is near completion and I am eager to ensure that output will result in a clear blueprint for the development of the three strands of the EWS, including the SCP. A consultation event on the blueprint will be held on 10 June. Those working with vulnerable young people as part of the EWS will then have an opportunity to express their views and help shape the policy blueprint prior to its publication.
As part of the implementation of the actions contained in the blueprint, I have requested that a new SCP scheme be scoped out and developed to ensure that its reach, resources and impact are maximised in supporting young people. I will also continue to examine options concerning the employment status of SCP co-ordinators and project workers. I am also aware that the EWS requires adequate staff numbers to ensure the three strands - home schooling, SCP and EWS - can meet the increasing demands on the service. The EWS has advised that it employs 89 education welfare officers who are managed by 12 senior educational welfare officers and that a service is provided to 3,952 schools. The most recent school enrolment figures stand at just over 920,000 students, with an average of 10,300 students per educational welfare officer. My Department continues to work to ensure necessary resources are available to support the EWS in its work.