Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Ceisteanna (2549)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

2549. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the funding available for the access inclusion model for preschool children with special needs over the past five years; the number of children accessing the model; the number of SNAs directly employed through the model; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32873/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

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 learning and care.

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. The levels of AIM that children benefit directly from 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 Early Years (LINC), established in 2016 with provision for 900 participants annually for four years. Pre-school settings employing an Inclusion Coordinator (who has graduated from the LINC Programme and has agreed to take on the role of Inclusion Coordinator (INCO) in the pre-school setting) receive an increase of €2 per child per week in the rate of ECCE capitation payable to that 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. A once-off provision for AIM Inclusive Play packs was also included in 2017 and 2018 budget allocation outlined below.

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. The AIM Level 7 budget allocation shown below also includes the service administration fee in relation to all of these levels managed by Pobal.

AIM was launched in June 2016. The total funding allocated by my Department and outturn from 2016 to date in 2019 for levels 1, 5 and 7 of AIM is set out below.* Funding for AIM Level 6 comes from the Department of Health Vote.

Year

2016

2016

2017

2017

2018

2018

2019

2019

Allocation / Outturn

Allocation

Outturn

Allocation

Outturn

Allocation

Outturn

Allocation

Outturn to date

Level of AIM

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Level 1

-

-

0.60

0.60

2.00

2.10

3.80

1.60

Level 5

1.61

0.12

2.50

3.07

2.50

2.04

1.25

0.35

Level 6

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Level 7

3.93

0.92

8.60

8.60

12.00

16.04

17.56

10.21

*Figures rounded to the nearest thousand.

The number of children benefiting from targeted AIM supports and the number of approved AIM Level 7 applications to date since the introduction of AIM in September 2016 are shown on the following table. Thousands more children have benefitted from the universal supports provided under AIM.

AIM -Table

-

No. of Children benefiting from AIM Supports provided

Number of AIM Level 7 Applications Approved

ECCE 2016/2017

2,486

1,332

ECCE 2017/2018

4,107

3,009

ECCE 2018/2019 (to date)

5,465

3,935