The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.
To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service that is accessible to schools, parents-guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young people. For this purpose, educational welfare officers, EWOs, have been appointed and deployed throughout the country to provide a welfare-focused service to support regular school attendance and discharge the board's functions locally.
The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement of the board is 94, comprising 16 HQ and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers and 61 educational welfare officers. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education. Since September 2005, every county in Ireland is served by an educational welfare service.
In addition to the NEWB staff, there are some 490 staff in education disadvantage programmes whose work involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently, work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.
As regards the Deputy's question relating to the number of absentees reported to the NEWB for the 2004-05 school year in the constituency of Dublin south east, my Department has requested the National Educational Welfare Board to respond directly to the Deputy on the matter, providing a breakdown if available.