Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Questions (83)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

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]

View answer

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.