18th November, 2015
A major new programme aimed at providing supports to children with disabilities in free pre-school has been launched today by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly, along with the Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan and Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State from the Department of Health whose responsibilities include the area of disability.
In Budget 2016 Minister Reilly announced that he had secured €17 million to establish a new programme for next year. In the region of 7,500 children are expected to benefit from the new model of support in a full year. The new programme will deliver truly inclusive care and education for children in a workable and sustainable manner with early years providers.
Today Minister Reilly and his colleagues set out the new model of Government-funded supports to enable children with disabilities fully participate in free pre-school in mainstream settings alongside their peers.
The new model was developed on foot of extensive consultation, across Government Departments and Agencies, as well as, most importantly, the parents of children with disabilities; the InterDepartmental Group drew on national and international evidence and experience to develop the model of support.
Critically – as many children don’t have a formal diagnosis when they start pre-school – the seven level programme doesn’t rely on diagnosis, but focuses on children’s developmental level, their abilities and their needs. This is a model of support that is built up around the needs and abilities of each child, and their parents. Disability is obviously a broad spectrum, with different levels of complexity. The seven levels of supports range from universal supports to highly targeted ones based on the needs of the individual child.
Speaking at the launch Minister Reilly said:
“The publication of this Report, and the funding to implement it announced in Budget 2016, demonstrates the Government’s commitment to giving all children the best start in life. It is a real and tangible example of joined up government – working together to ensure that children with disabilities can benefit fully from the significant expansion of Free Pre-School from September 2016. This investment forms a key element of the Budget 2016 childcare package, which increased public funding by a third – demonstrating the Government’s commitment to ensuring the benefits of our hard won economic recovery are felt by all families in their everyday lives.”
The model of supports launched today include: enhanced continuing professional development for early years practitioners; grants for equipment, appliances and minor alterations, increased capitation for certain complex cases, as well as access to therapeutic intervention. A Cross-Sectoral Implementation Group has been established to oversee implementation, and to monitor and review progress as the new model is embedded across the system, to develop a pre-school sector that is truly inclusive.
Also speaking at today’s launch, Minister O’Sullivan said:
‘Embracing diversity in pre-schools will improve outcomes for all children. I believe that this Report will help to provide a welcoming environment in our pre-schools, where all our children can access an inclusive educational experience at this important stage. I have been very pleased to collaborate fully with my colleagues in Government so that joined-up services for children with a disability can be provided through the implementation of the recommendations of this Report.’
Echoing Ministers Reilly and O’Sullivan, Minister Lynch said:
I am very pleased to join with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Education and Skills at the launch of this Report. The new model will enable children with a disability to benefit fully alongside their peers from high quality early years education. I look forward to the three Departments and their sectors working collaboratively on the Report’s implementation”