The Deputy will be aware that students with a special educational need, including those with an autism spectrum disorder, have a range of options available to them in the higher and further education sectors. Some students choose to participate in educational programmes through further adult educational programmes or in adult settings. While the Department of Health and Children/Health Service Executive assumes direct responsibility for young adults with special educational needs who are over 18 years, my Department may allocate funding towards an educational component of such provision. This is generally transacted through the co-operation hours scheme operated by Education and Training Boards (ETBs) where the local service provider makes application to the relevant ETB for tuition hours. Funding is also provided to the National Learning Network for this purpose.
Young adults with disabilities are eligible to access SOLAS funded mainstream services provided by the Education and Training Boards (ETBs). The ETBs contract with 16 Specialist Training Providers, in 49 locations country-wide, to deliver training courses to people with disabilities who require more intensive support than would be available in non-specialist training provision. A range of specialist courses is available at two levels of training, Introductory Skills Training (IST) and Specific Skills Training (SST) and includes in-centre, employer based and blended learning approaches to accommodate learners' training needs. These training courses lead to awards at levels 3-5 on the National Framework of Qualifications. Entry to specialist training is open to all persons with disabilities over 16 years of age. Programme duration may typically be up to 18 months or 24 months depending on programme type. Specialist training offers additional supports to learners which include individualised training and progression plans, literacy and numeracy support, longer training duration, adapted equipment, transport arrangements, enhanced programme content and enhanced trainer/learner ratio. Finally, I wish to advise the Deputy that the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) scheme also provides a third level admissions scheme for school leavers who have a disability or specific learning difficulty.