Under the Assistive Technology scheme, as set out in my Department’s Circular 0010/2013, funding is provided to schools towards the cost of computers and specialist equipment, which are required for educational purposes.
All equipment provided under this scheme support children with more complex disabilities who, in order to access the school curriculum, require essential specialist equipment.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports. SENOs also make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology/specialised equipment is required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in making recommendations for support.
In order to qualify for equipment under the assistive technology scheme, a student must have been diagnosed with a physical or communicative disability and must also have a recommendation in a professional assessment that the equipment is essential in order to allow the student to access the curriculum. It must also be clear that the existing I.T. equipment in the school is insufficient to meet the child's needs.
Schools make applications directly to the SENO, providing details of the student’s special educational needs or disability, including details of the approach taken by the school in making relevant interventions.
SENOs will review the application, and professional reports provided in support of same, in order to establish whether the criteria of the scheme have been met. They will then make a recommendation to my Department as to whether or not assistive technology is required; and based on this recommendation, my Department will decide on the level of grant, if any, to be provided.
Although equipment is sanctioned under the Assistive Technology scheme for use by particular students, it is the property of the school, and the school’s management authority is responsible for maintenance, repair, and insurance of the equipment.
It is the responsibility of each individual school to purchase the equipment after the grant is sanctioned. My Department does not hold a record of the average wait time from start of application to the time a student receives their assistive technology. However, I can confirm that 3,370 applications have been forwarded from the NCSE since January 2021 to date, with 350 applications currently on hand. In addition, all applications for audiology supports for children with hearing impairment and equipment to assist children with visual impairment are fully up to date and there are currently none outstanding.
In relation to the specific wait times requested from date of application, I have referred to the NCSE for their direct reply.