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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 52-72
 Header Item Autism Policy
 Header Item Aistear Curriculum Framework
 Header Item Croke Park Agreement Issues
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Services Provision
 Header Item Universities Legislation
 Header Item Institutes of Technology
 Header Item Institutes of Technology
 Header Item Freedom of Information Remit
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Family Support Services
 Header Item Child Benefit Eligibility
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item One-Parent Family Payment Eligibility
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory)
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Supplementary Welfare Allowance Applications

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 796 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 53 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 52-72

Autism Policy

 52. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will implement the recommendation of the Ombudsman for Children and publish his Department's policy on autism as a matter of urgency. [13452/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware that policy can be expressed and manifested through a variety of forms. Explicitly, it is communicated via legislation, regulations, rulings, orders, plans, strategies, policy statements, and other forms – or through a combination of these. Therefore the Deputy will appreciate that specific policies and objectives are not always articulated in just one document.

However my Department is mindful that greater clarity would be useful for schools and parents and accordingly my Department is currently in the process of preparing a comprehensive statement of existing policy within the boundaries of one document. Naturally the new policy statement will not be exclusive. Policies are subject of necessity to change from time to time. Also, the new statement will neither alter nor add to existing policy. It will reflect the current policy in a coherent and articulate manner for the benefit of schools and parents.

My Department strives to ensure that a continuum of special education provision is available as required for children with special educational needs. In line with this approach the policy is to promote a child-centred approach to education of all children with special educational needs including those with autism. As each child with autism is unique they should have access to a range of different approaches to meet their individual needs.

Children with autism present with a wide range of needs. Some children are capable of being fully integrated into mainstream schools without additional teaching or care supports. Others are able to attend mainstream schools but need additional teaching and/or care assistance. Many are best enrolled in autism-specific classes where more intensive and supportive interventions are required. Some may move from one setting to another as they get older and differing needs/strengths/abilities emerge.

The preferred policy of my Department is that children with autism are educated in school settings where children may have access to individualised education programmes (IEPs), fully-qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants, the appropriate school curriculum with the option, where possible and appropriate, of full or partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

Autism classes are established with a staffing ratio of 1 teacher and a minimum of 2 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) for every 6 children. Other SNAs may be allocated if required to meet the care needs of the children. Start-up grants are provided to the schools to enable special equipment to be purchased. Enhanced capitation is paid in respect of each child and assistive technology is funded where this is recommended.

This approach promotes the maximum level of inclusion which accords with the intent of the EPSEN Act. While some children may be able to attend a mainstream class, for others the most appropriate provision may be in a special class or unit in the school or in a special school.

My Department supports provision in mainstream schools, some 540 special classes for autism attached to mainstream and special schools and 18 special schools for children with autism throughout the State which cater for the educational needs of some 5,000 children with autism, all of which operate within the policy parameters.

This policy is based on advice received from international experts on autism, NEPS, the Inspectorate and the report of the Irish Task Force on Autism. My Department has satisfied itself that research does not support the exclusive usage of any one approach as a basis for national educational provision for children with autism. It is for this reason that my Department's preferred policy is for a child centred approach where the approach to be taken is based on the individual child's needs.

My Department continues to develop policy and programmes for children with special educational needs, including those with autism, and will continue to take relevant professional advice into account in this regard.

Aistear Curriculum Framework

 53. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the range of supports including the number of Aistear tutors and the number of in-service training hours facilitated through the teacher training centres that have been provided to date to primary school teachers to upskill in relation to the implementation of the Aistear curriculum for infant classes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13479/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Aistear is Ireland's curriculum framework for children from birth to six years. The framework can be used in a range of early childhood settings including children's own homes. It reflects recent developments in understanding how children learn and grow in their early years. These developments include the importance of play as well as a balance between adult-led and child-led activities. Aistear can help teachers to prioritise play and active learning in implementing the curriculum for infant classes in primary schools.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is currently revising the infant curriculum. This work focuses initially on the language area (English and Irish) and will be ready for schools in September 2014. The Council is also currently undertaking a review of how the curriculum in the initial stage of primary education is structured and organised in other jurisdictions. This together with Aistear's principles and teaching approaches, will inform the revision of the infant level of the curriculum.

Since the 2010/2011 school year and through a collaboration between the NCCA and the Association of Teachers' Education Centres in Ireland (ATECI), work has been underway to support primary school teachers and principals in becoming familiar with the key ideas in Aistear. This support is provided primarily through a suite of Aistear workshops developed and facilitated by Aistear Tutors (primary school teachers) within the 21 full-time Education Centres throughout the country. Up to the end of 2012 a total of 322 two hour workshops provided support to 5,977 teachers and principals. In addition, a total of 827 teachers were supported through 38 Aistear summer courses in 2011 and 2012.

The online Aistear Toolkit developed by the NCCA, is a key support to the Aistear Tutors and Education Centres in this work. The Toolkit contains video clips, photos, podcasts and audio presentations that show what Aistear looks like in practice across a range of settings including infant classes in primary schools. A number of Education Centres have established, or are in the process of establishing, Aistear Teacher Professional Communities (TPCs). These TPCs enable teachers to meet to share their classroom experiences in using Aistear's principles and methodologies, and to learn from each other.

Croke Park Agreement Issues

 54. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide details of any representative bodies who took part in the Croke Park II negotiations representing school managements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13482/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Under the Education Acts, the terms and conditions of employment of teachers and other staff of recognised schools who are remunerated out of monies provided by the Oireachtas are determined by the Minister for Education and Skills, with the concurrence of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

The negotiations on an extension to the Croke Park Agreement were central discussions concerning changes to the terms and conditions of employment of all public servants. The Departments of Education and Skills and Public Expenditure and Reform took part in the talks as the bodies which determine terms and conditions of employment for staff in the education sector as a whole, including staff in schools.

Apprenticeship Programmes

 55. Deputy Ciarán Lynch Information on Ciaran Lynch Zoom on Ciaran Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his plans to retain the FÁS four year apprenticeship training schemes in their current format in view of the FÁS-vocational education committee convergence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13490/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon As part of the Action Plan for Jobs my Department is committed to reviewing the Irish Apprenticeship training model, with a view to providing an updated model of training that delivers the necessary skilled workforce to service the needs of a rapidly changing economy and ensures an appropriate balance between supply and demand. This review is currently underway in the Department of Education and Skills and has been undertaken in two phases.

The first stage was the preparation of a background issues paper which includes a factual description of the current system, including the governance arrangements, trends and forecasts in relation to recruitment, identified strengths and weaknesses of the current model and identifies the range of possible options for change, as well as information on models of apprenticeship in other countries. In 2013 it is proposed that the second phase of the review will involve consultation with all key stakeholders on the options for change. The arrangements for this phase of the review are currently being considered.

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

 56. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide an overview of services that are available to a cohort of students (details supplied); his vision for the provision of such education to students of this profile into the future; the supports that are available to the families of such students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13528/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware that the establishment of a network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

SENOs are a valuable source of support to parents who are actively sourcing a placement for their children or on deciding the most appropriate placement for their child. The parents of the children to whom the Deputy refers should contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. My Department strives to ensure that a continuum of special education provision is available as required for children with special educational needs. In line with this approach the policy is to promote a child-centred approach to education of all children with special educational needs including those with autism. As each child with autism is unique they should have access to a range of different approaches to meet their individual needs.

Children with autism present with a wide range of needs. Some children are capable of being fully integrated into mainstream schools without additional teaching or care supports. Others are able to attend mainstream schools but need additional teaching and/or care assistance. Many are best enrolled in autism-specific classes where more intensive and supportive interventions are required. Some may move from one setting to another as they get older and differing needs/strengths/abilities emerge.

Universities Legislation

 57. Deputy Peter Mathews Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide, in tabular form broken down by years and for each institute of technology and university, the cost of compliance with S35 of the University Act 1997 (Quality Assurance); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13529/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The information sought is not readily available in my Department. Officials of my Department have asked the Higher Education Authority to contact the institutions seeking details and I will forward the available information to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Institutes of Technology

 58. Deputy Peter Mathews Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide, in tabular form, the amount of money spent on external legal fees divided between human resources and other issues since 2000, broken down by institute of technology and by year. [13538/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The information sought is not readily available in my Department. Officials of my Department have asked the Higher Education Authority to contact the Institutes of Technology seeking details and I will forward the available information to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Institutes of Technology

 59. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if his attention has been drawn to the fact that IT Tallaght has spent €3.5 million from non Exchequer resources as part of the preparatory phase of a major capital work which his Department included in its commitments under the public capital programme but which has subsequently not been funded; his views on whether it is fair that the institute has to carry such a deficit; and if he is proposing to take any remedial action to assist the Institute. [13539/13]

 60. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his views on the equity of IT Tallaght losing €3.5 million from student, non Exchequer resources due to the failure of the State to provide promised capital funding; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this has significant implications for an institute. [13540/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 60 together.

My Department provided funding of over €1.3m to IT Tallaght to contribute towards the costs that it incurred towards necessary enabling external infrastructure works required at the Institute as a prerequisite to the delivery of 3 Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects that were in planning for the Institute. As a result of a requirement to prioritise capital resources in the current difficult fiscal environment, a decision was taken in November 2011 that higher education projects that had not been contractually committed at that stage, including these PPP projects, would not be progressed. However, the nature of the site enabling works undertaken enhances the overall quality of the external environment and will benefit the Institute in the long term.

Freedom of Information Remit

 61. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin his plans to extend the Freedom of Information legislation to cover vocational education committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13447/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Government contains a commitment to extend Freedom of Information to all public bodies.

In this context in approving the general Scheme of the Bill, the Government has agreed to extend Freedom of Information to the Vocational Education Committees with the exception of any records which would enable the compilation of information (that is not otherwise available to the general public) in relation to the comparative performance of schools in respect of the academic achievement of students.

Pension Provisions

 62. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the position regarding the pension levy (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13491/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The pension-related deduction ("pension levy") was introduced by way of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 and section 13 of that Act provides that I must review the Act each year and cause a written report of my findings to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas, which I have done and will continue to do.

Family Support Services

 63. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin with reference to the Fiscal Case for Working with Troubled Families and also Listening to Troubled Families that were published by the British Government last month, if his Department will publish comparative statistical profiles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13541/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Deputy refers to the report "Fiscal Case for Working with Troubled Families" published in February by the British Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government. There are five areas addressed by the report:

- Early Year Education

- Preventative work with young people (e.g. youth work, positive activities, Information, Advice and Guidance)

- Protecting children via family intervention and targeted child protection and families with complex needs

- Health - programmes on mental health, drug and substance misuse, early years food/milk, and teen pregnancy nurses and health visitors

- Parenting Orders and preventing teenage violence.

  The report estimated the annual cost to the British Exchequer of reacting to needs emerging from the above expenditure areas and compared this to amounts placed into targeted interventions intended to improve outcomes in these areas. The methodologies used in estimating the costs arrived at would be of interest to research units in the CSO and Departments of Children & Youth Affairs, Social Protection, Health, Justice & Equality and I will bring the contents of this report to their attention. I would also inform Deputy McHugh that relevant information on targeted expenditure in the above-mentioned areas is available in the Annual Revised Estimates Volume each year:

Table

Topic Relevant Department Subhead
Early Years Education Children & Youth Affairs Vote 40 B3
Preventative work with young people Children & Youth Affairs Vote 40

Assisting Youth Organisations
B5
Protecting children via family intervention Children & Youth Affairs

(Family Support Agency) Vote 40
A3
Health - programmes on mental health etc. Health – child & family services Vote 39 B15 (part)
Parenting Orders and preventing teenage violence Justice & Equality Vote 24

(Irish Youth Justice Service)
I

Child Benefit Eligibility

 64. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her Department's policy on the payment of child benefit to children and their parents who do not reside in Ireland during the summer months out of school term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13488/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton In 2013, the child benefit payment will be paid to around 609,000 families in respect of some 1.16 million children and expenditure is estimated to be approximately €1.9 billion.

In general, child benefit is payable in respect of children who are ordinarily resident in the State. There is a comprehensive certification and review programme in place in the Department to ensure that child benefit is only paid to customers who continue to fulfil the qualifying conditions including residence.

There is no specific provision in social welfare legislation covering entitlement or otherwise to child benefit payment during absence abroad on holiday. In effect, where absences are brought to my department’s attention or come to light as a result of control exercises, each case is decided on its own merits. However, as a general rule, absence abroad for a period up to two months would be considered as a holiday and therefore would not usually lead to suspension of payment except in exceptional circumstances.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 65. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when an application for carer's allowance will be granted in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13495/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer on 11th March 2013 who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

  Questions Nos. 66 and 67 withdrawn.

One-Parent Family Payment Eligibility

 68. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding one parent family payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13560/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned is currently participating in the Back to Education Scheme and means are not assessed during the academic year while she is engaged in this scheme. The person concerned should call to her local office and inform a member of staff of the change in her circumstances, in order that the means applicable to her payment can be reviewed once the academic year has finished.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 69. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if, in view of medical evidence submitted, she will review the decision to refuse disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13561/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned applied for disability allowance on 24 October 2011.

The application, based on the evidence submitted, was refused on medical grounds and the person was notified in writing of this decision on the 6 March 2012. Further medical evidence was received and the decision to disallow was reviewed by a deciding officer. There was no change to this decision and the person was notified of this on 5 July 2012.

The person concerned subsequently appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. Following an oral hearing, the appeals officer decided the person was not medically suitable for disability allowance and the appeal was disallowed. The person was notified in writing by the Social Welfare Appeals Office of this decision on 15 February 2013. An appeals officer’s decision is final and conclusive in the absence of any fresh facts or evidence.

State Pension (Contributory)

 70. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if and when entitlement to old age contributory pension will arise in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the totality of his eligible contributions to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13562/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department is unable to provide forecasts to people in relation to their possible future State pension (transition/contributory) entitlements, or to comment on individual pension planning enquiries. The person concerned will not reach pension age until December 2017. He is being forwarded a copy of his PRSI record, which is a full representation of his social insurance contribution record as currently held by the Department, together with a Guide which explains how entitlement to a State pension (transition/contributory) is currently assessed, and which should assist him in calculating his possible future State pension entitlements. The Department’s website www.welfare.ie also provides a comprehensive suite of information in relation to State pension entitlements, including a range of frequently asked questions and answers. In addition, information officers are available in the Department’s local offices who can assist him as required. If the person concerned feels there are any gaps or omissions in his PRSI record, he should contact Client Eligibility Services, Department of Social Protection, Inner Relief Road, Buncrana, Co. Donegal.

Jobseeker's Allowance Applications

 71. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if an entitlement to jobseeker's allowance exists in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13563/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton According to the records of this Department, the person concerned has not submitted an application for a jobseeker’s allowance payment.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Applications

 72. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when basic social welfare payment will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13565/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned made an application for basic supplementary allowance on the 22nd February 2013. She was found to be not habitually resident in the State and she was notified of this decision in writing. She has been advised of her right to appeal the decision to the Chief Appeals Officer.


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