Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Questions (1128)

Carol Nolan


1128. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the access inclusion model for pre-school children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5270/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) for pre-school children was established in 2016 and is now in its fourth year of operation. It aims to support children with disabilities to access and meaningfully participate in the ECCE universal pre-school programme. AIM is a child-centred model that involves seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the early learning and care setting.

AIM's universal measures have supported the development of an inclusive culture in the sector. 97% of registered providers have developed an inclusion policy, and 6,250 participants from 3,000 services have taken part in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training.

To empower services to promote an inclusive culture in settings, the Leadership in Inclusion (LINC) programme was established and in the last four years has had over 3,100 registered students. So far 2,230 practitioners have graduated from the LINC programme, of whom more then 1,900 have gone on to be Inclusion Co-Ordinators working in pre-school settings. AIM has also invested in the delivery of continuing professional development courses such as Hanen, Lámh and Sensory Processing e-learning. Currently over 1,100, 800 and 1,425 participants respectively have completed these courses.

Targeted AIM supports focus on the needs of an individual child and over 12,500 children in 3,300 services have benefited from targeted AIM supports since 2016. These supports range from assistive equipment, to therapeutic supports and to additional assistance in the pre-school room.

AIM has won awards both at home and internationally. It has won a Civil Service Excellence Award, and most recently won an international award for innovative policy at this year’s UN Zero Project Awards, in recognition of the programme’s significant contribution to the inclusion of children with disabilities. The Zero Project focuses on the rights of persons with disabilities globally. AIM was one of 11 innovative policies selected from 465 policy submissions from around the globe.

My Department has committed to conducting an end-of-year-three evaluation of the model. The evaluation shall, having regard to all levels of AIM, ascertain the impact and effectiveness of AIM from the perspective of all stakeholders – investigating insofar as possible outcomes, efficacy, efficiency, adaptability and sustainability. This evaluation is currently in the procurement phase.

A whole-of-Government strategy to improve the lives of babies, young children and their families, First 5, commits to continue to roll out AIM to ensure the full inclusion of children with a disability in settings delivering the ECCE programme. As part of the end-of-year-three evaluation of AIM and, subject to evaluation findings and other relevant developments, First 5 commits to consideration of enhancements to, and/or extension of, AIM to, for example, all early learning and care services, all school-age childcare services and/or to children with additional needs other than a disability. Consideration will be given to this commitment following completion of the evaluation of AIM.