As the Deputy may be aware my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments. (SCPA).
Following on from an increase allowed in the 2018 Budget that the sanctioned number for NEPS psychologist stands at 194 whole-time equivalents of which some 187 w.t.e. posts are currently filled with 7 posts vacant due to on-going retirements and resignations, etc. within the Service. Even at this current level this represents the highest number of psychologists to be employed within NEPS since the inception of the service in 2000.
Additionally the Deputy may be aware that under the provisions of Budget 2019 I was pleased to announce that NEPS psychologist numbers will expand by a further her 10 posts from the start of the new academic year bringing the overall approved psychologist numbers to 204 w.t.e.
I can inform the Deputy that a national recruitment competition is currently in operation by the Public Appointments Service in conjunction with my Department to replenish NEPS Regional Recruitment Panels to allow for both the filling of the above-mentioned vacancies and the expansion of NEPS number by a further 10 posts from September.
This Government remains firmly committed to the maintenance of a robust and effective educational psychological service and any further increase in the number of psychologists will be a matter for determination in the context of the forthcoming Departmental Estimates process.