Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Ceisteanna (1188, 1189, 1191, 1192)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1188. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of applications that have been made under the AIM programme implementation platform that have not been processed. [13276/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1189. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average waiting time for an application to be processed through the AIM programme implementation platform. [13277/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1191. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children awaiting assessment by an early years specialist either through an on-site visit or otherwise in order to avail of AIM supports in tabular form. [13279/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1192. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average and maximum waiting time for a child to be assessed by an early years specialist in order to avail of AIM supports. [13280/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1188, 1189, 1191 and 1192 together.

The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), which was launched in June 2016, is a model of supports designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. Its goal is to empower pre-school providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience, ensuring that every eligible child can meaningfully participate in the ECCE programme and reap the benefits of quality early years care and education.

AIM is a child-centred model, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child in the context of the pre-school setting they are attending. AIM is administered by Pobal on behalf of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and applications are processed through Pobal’s Programmes Implementation Platform (PIP). Applications for support may fall under Levels 1, 4, 5 or 7 of AIM.

AIM Level 1 recognises that a strong culture of inclusion must be fostered and embedded to support all children’s maximum participation in the ECCE programme. This includes the new higher education programme in Leadership for Inclusion in the Early Years (LINC), established in 2016 with provision for 900 students annually for four years. Pre-school settings employing an Inclusion Coordinator (who has graduated from LINC and has agreed to take on the role of Inclusion Coordinator (INCO) in the pre-school setting) will receive an increase of €2 per child per week in the rate of ECCE capitation payable to that setting.

AIM Level 4 provides access to mentoring for pre-school practitioners from a team of dedicated AIM Early Years Specialists. To avail of this support, pre-school providers, in cooperation with parents, are requested to complete an online Access and Inclusion Profile. This looks at the strengths, abilities and needs of the child, as well as the strengths and needs of the pre-school setting.

AIM Level 5 provides for access to specialised equipment, appliances, assistive technology and/or minor alterations capital grants for early years’ settings to ensure children with a disability can participate in the ECCE programme. A short report from a designated professional is required confirming that the specialised equipment or minor building alterations are necessary.

AIM Level 7 provides additional assistance in the pre-school room where this is critical to ensuring a child’s participation in the ECCE programme. In line with emerging best practice to support the integration and independence of children with a disability, AIM does not fund Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). Rather, it provides financial support to the pre-school provider, which can be used either to reduce the adult to child ratio in the pre-school room or to buy in additional assistance to the pre-school room. Accordingly, Level 7 assistance is a shared resource for the pre-school setting. To avail of this support, pre-school providers, in partnership with parents, complete an online Access and Inclusion Profile, including the Level 7 service request.

Pobal has provided the following information regarding the number of AIM applications being processed and the average waiting time for an application to be processed on PIP as at 14th March 2019:

AIM Level

Number of applications in process as at 14th March 2019

Average waiting time for an application to be processed on PIP as at 14th March 2019

AIM Level 1 – INCO capitation

94

16 working days

AIM Level 4

146

10 working days

AIM Level 5

22

5 working days

AIM Level 7

203

31 working days

AIM Early Years Specialists carry out observation visits, rather than assessments, on children. They observe the child in the context of their pre-school, using the Access and Inclusion Profile. This information is then used to determine the type of support the pre-school can access under the model, to support the child’s meaningful participation in the ECCE programme. Pobal has advised that, as at 21st March 2019, 73 children were awaiting an observation visit.

The average waiting time for a child to receive an observation visit from an AIM Early Years Specialist is influenced by when the application is submitted. Pobal has advised that requests for AIM Level 7 that are made at the same time as an AIM Level 4 application have an average waiting time of 9 working days. Requests for AIM Level 7 that are made following an AIM Level 4 support visit or telephone call have an average waiting time of 17 working days. Similarly, the timing of when the application is submitted will affect the maximum waiting time for a child to receive an observation visit from an AIM Early Years Specialist. Pobal has advised that they have recorded maximum waiting times of 140 working days (concurrent AIM Level 4 and Level 7 application) and 169 working days (consecutive AIM Level 4 and Level 7 application). However it should be noted that, in both of these cases, the AIM applications were submitted in the spring before the children started in their pre-school that September. The pre-schools and parents involved in these cases were keen to be prepared in advance of the children starting in pre-school.