Schools to get €195 weekly for disabled children
Pre-school are to be given an additional €195 per severely disabled child per week as part of the Government's bid to improve the early education experience for children with disabilities.
Children's Minister James Reilly will today detail a major strand of the Coalition's childcare strategy aimed at assisting pre-schools in hiring additional staff to support children with special needs.
From September, €15m will go towards staff training, grants for equipment, minor alterations, access to therapies - and in certain cases a reduced child ratio. While there are 7,500 children with disabilities at pre-school age, 1,000 of them have needs that are deemed to be severe.
The programme was recommended by a working group which included representatives from the departments of health, education and children, the HSE and Tusla.
The model itself sets out seven levels of support which the working group says are required to result in the full participation of children with disabilities.
As part of a series of recommendations, the group also proposes the provision of annual funding towards a minor capital grants programme and to continue to raise the minimum qualification for employment in the pre-school sector
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Dr Reilly said he intends to address a situation whereby special needs children can't avail of the pre-school care they require.
"We want a conclusive culture where every preschool is encouraged to take on special needs children," the Dublin Fingal TD said.
Dr Reilly, whose own son suffers from autism, said he expects parents and schools to discuss how best to spend the "quantum" of money being made to support those with severe disabilities.
He said in some instances, schools will be able to reduce class sizes.
"It's much more flexible rather than simply an extra pair of hands. And I think it will be really helpful and effective at giving those children the best chance at the start," he said.
"Because I can tell you, as the parent of a child with special needs, that the early years are very critical.
"Special needs are a range and one thing that I feel strongly in agreement with (junior health minister) Kathleen Lynch about in relation to disability is that we should have services meeting their need and not get hung up on a diagnosis."