I wish to advise the Deputy that the vast majority of supports for childcare, including pre-school education, is provided by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The principal vehicle for the delivery of pre-school education is the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which was introduced in January 2010 and provides for early learning in a formal setting to children in the year before they commence primary school.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) currently provides for care support for pupils with special needs attending a range of pre-schools. Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are allocated to Special Schools and to mainstream Primary and Post Primary schools to assist children with special educational needs who also have additional and significant care needs. Such support is provided in order to facilitate the attendance of those pupils at school and also to minimise disruption to class or teaching time for the pupils concerned, or for their peers, and with a view to developing their independent living skills.
This may, in some instances, include provision for children who are enrolled to early intervention classes in recognised primary schools, or special schools, where support is provided for as part of the schools total quantum of SNA support. However, as set out in my Department's Circular 0030/2014 in relation to the SNA scheme, SNA support is not provided to pre-school services which operate outside of the primary or special school provision.