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Special needs pre-school children to get additional funding in the Budget


Minister for Children, James Reilly TD

Minister for Children, James Reilly TD

Minister for Children, James Reilly TD

Young children under the age of five with special needs are to benefit from additional supports in the Budget.

A cross departmental plan is currently being devised under the leadership of Dr James Reilly, the Children's Minister, but in conjunction with education minister Jan O'Sullivan and health minister Leo Varadkar.

It is well recognised within Government that the co-ordination and provision of appropriate supports for pre-school children with special needs is not satisfactory.

According to a Government memorandum on the plan, seen by the Sunday Independent, the failure of the State to adequately address those children in need of support means the "current situation needs to be addressed without further delay".

The Government note reveals: "It seems clear that many children with special needs are not getting the supports they require at pre-school age to enable their participation in mainstream settings. Some cannot access pre-school services and some, while attending a pre-school, are not achieving their potential due to lack of appropriate supports.

"There is inconsistency in service provision across the country.

"The State already funds the free pre-school year at an annual cost of €175m in recognition of the importance of early childhood care and education."

The Government note admits that sufficient supports are not currently available to optimise each child's development and potential.

"There are clear deficits in provision and a lack of clarity across Government departments regarding leadership, co-ordination and development of best services for children who require extra supports at preschool level."

Also, previous plans to progress this matter forward have become bogged down amid internal political wrangling between departments, the memo states.

"There was also disagreement on which department should lead on the issue."

The three departments will now set about agreeing a "workable" programme of supports that can be delivered upon and how much money it will cost.

A report will be available in September which will then form part of the Budget negotiations.

The allocation of resources to the sectors will depend on the agreed model, and "where the support services are to be provided", the memo says.

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