My Department is aware of issues relating to very significant increases in insurance costs in some special schools, through correspondence received from some special schools, discussions with the National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education (NABMSE) and media reports.
These increases appear due, in some instances, to an annual increase in insurance costs generally and, in some cases, an increase in claims against special schools.
Separately, a number of special schools under the patronage of organisations that are funded by the HSE to provide health and personal social services on behalf of the HSE under Section 38 and 39 of the Health Act, experienced significant increased insurance quotes, when the Section 38 funded bodies were delegated to the General Indemnity Scheme (GIS) under the State Claims Agency and the Section 39 organisations experienced similar increases in their insurance costs. The effect of this was that the special schools under their patronage needed to seek separate insurance cover.
While securing and maintaining adequate and appropriate insurance cover is a matter for the managerial authority of each school, my Department has been working as a matter of urgency with NABMSE and relevant Government departments, including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the State Claims Agency, to seek a resolution to the issue of increased insurance costs in special schools.
A number of options have been identified to address the issue. These include the development of a group insurance scheme for special schools, which appears to be the most viable option.
NABMSE met with boards and patrons of special schools most affected by increases in insurance, on 6th June last to discuss the matter and options available. An official from the Department attended this meeting. The importance of all schools signing up for such a scheme was emphasised at the meeting and 47 schools subsequently signed up for the Group Scheme option.
A broker was appointed on foot of a tender process conducted by NABMSE and a request for a policy quotation has now gone to market. NABMSE expect an outcome to this process in the coming weeks.
It is hoped that a speedy and cost effective resolution can be secured for impacted special schools, and the outcome of the NABMSE group scheme is awaited in this regard.
The special school to which the Deputy refers is not among the special schools that have made contact with my Department to date in relation to insurance issues.
It is not sustainable however for my Department to continue to advance capitation payments as a way of meeting vastly increased insurance premiums.
I know that this is a cause of concern to schools as well and it is my hope that a speedy and cost effective resolution can be secured for impacted special schools.