The work done by the 124 special schools is invaluable. Since my appointment as Minister I have had the opportunity to visit a number of these schools and see first hand the work they do.
My Department is aware of issues relating to very significant increases in insurance costs in some special schools, through correspondence received from some special schools, through discussions with the National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education (NABMSE) and media reports.
These increases appear due, in some instances, to an annual increase in insurance costs generally and, in some cases, an increase in claims against special schools.
Securing and maintaining adequate and appropriate insurance cover is a matter for the managerial authority of each school.
My Department is working as a matter of urgency with NABMSE and relevant Government departments, including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the State Claims Agency, to seek a resolution to the issue of increased insurance costs in special schools.
A number of options have been identified to address the issue. These include the development of a group insurance scheme for special schools. NABMSE met with boards and patrons on 6th June to discuss the matter and options available. An official from my Department attended this meeting.
At this stage, the Group Scheme proposal appears to be the most viable. The importance of all schools signing up for such a scheme was emphasised at the recent meeting and all school representatives who were in attendance, were in favour of exploring the Group Scheme option.
15 special schools have contacted my Department directly, who are experiencing difficulty in paying insurance premiums currently. These schools report increases in insurance of between 30% to over 700% in the last 2 years. My Department has advanced school capitation payments on an exceptional basis to 2 special schools to date, amounting to € 36,860. My Department is currently engaging with the other schools in this regard.
It is not sustainable however for my Department to continue to advance capitation payments as a way of meeting vastly increased insurance premiums.
I know that this is a cause of concern to schools as well and it is my hope that a speedy and cost effective resolution can be secured for impacted special schools.