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Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 263. Mr. Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey  if his attention has been drawn to reports that it is increasingly difficult for schools and providers of special education to retain speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and educational psychologists due to the attraction of working in the private sector; if studies have been carried out or are planned in this regard; his plans to assist in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24639/02]

[1079]Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey The national educational psychological service came into existence on 1 September 1999 with the 43 psychologists already employed in my Department. The recruitment of additional psychologists involved the organisation of competitions through the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission.

Notwithstanding the time consuming nature of such competitions, there are now 119 psychologists in NEPS in addition to a number of psychologists deployed elsewhere in the educational system, bringing the overall total up to almost 130.

The Civil Service and Local Government Commissioners have established a panel of 69 psychologists who were successful in the most recent competition. Some 37 of these psychologists have entered the service since September 2002. My Department is making offers of employment to a further 13 psychologists who are expected to take up their posts later this year or during 2003. The 16 psychologists who remain on the panel should also be made offers of employment during 2003. A number of those appointed had previously been working in private practice.

Since 1999, two psychologists have, sadly, died. Six others have left NEPS, three on retirement and three to take up employment elsewhere in the public service. It seems therefore that NEPS's ability to retain staff is not adversely affected by the private sector. However, NEPS has conducted a study of the demand and supply of educational psychologists in collaboration with the principal psychologists from Northern Ireland and will continue to keep the position under review.

The employment and retention of speech and language therapists and of occupational therapists is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children.

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