Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Ceisteanna (23)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

23. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of funding for the provision of supports for special needs children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22250/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Officials in my Department were in contact with the Deputy's office, and I understand that the question specifically relates to supports for children with special needs to take part in school-age childcare.

My Department does not currently provide additional supports for children with disabilities or special needs to attend school-age childcare services. However, in First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, I have made a commitment to reviewing such needs in due course.  It is important however that in the first instance my Department completes the planned three year evaluation of the AIM programme and that we apply any learning from it to the development of new policy and service provision.

Deputies may be aware that AIM - the Access and Inclusion Model - provides both universal and targeted supports for the meaningful participation of children with disabilities in the ECCE pre-school programme. The third year of AIM's operation will end next month and  work on the 3-year evaluation will then commence. A one year evaluation conducted by external consultants was very positive and indeed AIM has won a number of national awards.

The Government made a commitment in First 5 to consider enhancements to, or extension of, AIM to other groups of children. Such an extension might involve younger children (such as under-3s) or children attending school-age childcare services, or it might involve children with additional needs other than a disability. However, I must stress that any decisions on extension or reform of AIM will be subject to the findings of the evaluation, other relevant developments and the securing of necessary resources.

The Deputy may also be interested to know that on 21 May I launched a public consultation on the future of school-age childcare. The consultation focuses on the development of comprehensive regulations and a national quality framework. Details on the online survey and a call for submissions can be found on my Department's website.