Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Questions (83)

Niamh Smyth


83. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of funding for the provision of supports for special needs children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29375/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Officials in my Department were in contact with the Deputy's office, and I understand that the question specifically relates to supports for children with special needs to take part in school-age childcare.

My Department does not currently provide such supports. The Deputy may be aware that AIM - the Access and Inclusion Model - provides both universal and targeted supports for the meaningful participation of children with disabilities in the ECCE pre-school programme. The third year of AIM's operation is just ending, and work on a 3-year evaluation of AIM will shortly commence. A review at the end of the first year of AIM, conducted by external consultants, was very positive, and indeed AIM has won a number of national awards.

The Government made a commitment in First 5 to consider enhancements to, or extension of, AIM to other groups of children. Such an extension might involve younger children (such as under-3s) or children attending school-age childcare services, or it might involve children with additional needs other than a disability. However, any decisions on extension or reform of AIM will depend on the findings of the 3-year evaluation, other relevant developments, and the securing of necessary resources.

The Deputy may also be interested to know that on 21st May I launched a public consultation on the future regulation and quality standards for school-age childcare, and this consultation ended last week. The consultation included an open call for submissions, an online survey, a focus group session with school-age service providers, and an Open Policy Debate with a wide range of stakeholders. The consultation has provided rich information for consideration by my Department, and the findings may provide additional input into consideration of future supports for accessing school-age childcare.

Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 77.