My Department is represented on the Homelessness Inter-Agency Group (HIAG) which was established by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to bring about greater coherence and coordination in the provision of homelessness related services across the relevant Government organisations. Actions to support children who are experiencing homelessness are being advanced through this group.
I wish to advise the Deputy that a range of resources are available from my Department to support schools in dealing with identified additional educational needs, including needs which may arise for children who are experiencing homelessness. Such resources include:
- The National Educational Psychological Service NEPS who work through a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to support schools to meet the needs of individual pupils. NEPS psychologists can provide advice and guidance to Principals and teachers in relation to individual students’ needs and in the development of whole school approaches to support inclusion, participation and integration.
- In addition, NEPS psychologists support schools to implement early-intervention and prevention programmes, such as The Incredible Years Programme in Primary Schools and resilience building programmes, such as the FRIENDS Programmes at Primary and Post Primary levels.
- DEIS provides additional supports, through the DEIS School Support Programme, to schools identified as having the highest concentrations of pupils from disadvantaged communities. Schools use these additional resources to meet the identified needs of their pupil cohort, including the additional needs that may arise for pupils experiencing homelessness.
- Schools designated as DEIS can also avail of Home School Community Liaison and School Completion supports provided by Tusla’s Education Support Service (TESS) to assist with school attendance, retention and progression which can be areas of particular challenge to pupils experiencing homelessness.
- The School Meals Programme (SMP) operated by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection(DEASP) is an important component of policies to address the educational and health disadvantages associated with an inadequately nutritious diet in childhood. A pilot hot school meals programme is being rolled out by DEASP in 2019.
- Education Welfare officers, who form part of TUSLA Education Support Service, also support children experiencing difficulties with school attendance. Tusla has published information resources to assist families experiencing difficulties with school attendance arising from homelessness.