Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Ceisteanna (284, 285)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

284. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education if she will address a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49409/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

285. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education if she will address a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49410/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 284 and 285 together.

Under the Assistive Technology scheme, as set out in my Department’s Circular 0010/2013, funding is provided to schools towards the cost of computers and specialist equipment, which are required for educational purposes. Equipment is provided under this scheme for children with more complex disabilities who, in order to access the school curriculum, require essential specialist equipment which they do not already have, or which cannot be provided for them through the school’s existing IT provision.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of Special Education Needs Officers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for assistive technology support.

Schools make applications directly to the SENO, providing details of the student’s special educational needs or disability, including details of the approach taken by the school in making relevant interventions. Professional reports (from psychologists or occupational therapists, for example) must be submitted by the school along with the application. These reports must have a recent and comprehensive professional assessment of the nature and extent of disability, and outline that the equipment is essential for the pupil to access the curriculum.

Equipment may only be provided where medical and/or other professional reports outline that the degree of communicative disability is such that this equipment is essential to allow the pupil to access education and set out how the equipment will provide for this.

The type of equipment provided under the assistive technology scheme is varied, and includes audiological supports for students with hearing impairment, braille equipment for children with visual impairment, and computer equipment with associated modified software for students with physical or severe communicative disabilities.

SENOs review the application and professional reports, in order to establish whether the criteria of the scheme have been met. A recommendation is then made to my Department as to whether or not assistive technology is required; and based on this recommendation, my Department decides on the level of grant, if any, to be provided.

The SENO for this case recommended that Assistive Technology be approved for this pupil in the form of a laptop up to the maximum value of € 550 plus software giving a total grant due of € 980.70. On foot of this decision and in line with procedures an appeal was received on the grounds that amount provided was insufficient for equipment necessary.

The Department sought further clarity from the SENO with regard to the appropriateness or requirement for the provision of equipment applied for. Having reviewed the case, the NCSE agree that 980.70 is sufficient to purchase suitable equipment to access the curriculum and the decision was made not to increase the amount originally sanctioned. This decision has been conveyed to the school.

It was informed to the school that many lightweight laptops on the market that can be purchased for less than € 550 on which Dragon Naturally Speaking software can be uploaded, and the SENO has confirmed this.

Separately, where an appeal has been unsuccessful, but if new information becomes available, it is open to the school to submit a new application to the SENO for consideration.

It is also open to parents to contact SENOs directly to discuss their child’s special educational needs, using the contact details available at: www.ncse.ie/seno-contact-list

Question No. 285 answered with Question No. 284.