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 Header Item Emergency Accommodation Provision (Continued)
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone] Children aged 16 and 17 may be taken into care or, where their main need is that of accommodation, they may be provided with a service under section 5 of the Child Care Act 1991. As the Deputy knows, children become out of home for many reasons, and Tusla has informed me that it is rare for there to be a single trigger event. It is usually associated with family violence, abuse or ongoing neglect at home, or alcohol and drug addiction. It may also be caused by a young person who is already in care, leaving their residential placement. Ultimately, my wish is that we support children to live with their families and, where this is not possible, that we provide the best possible supports and care for children and young people in need.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan Before I respond to this question, I would like to say that I share the concerns of previous Deputies around the effects on community child care due to the change in regulations.

I have spoken to youth workers in the north inner city of Dublin who meet these young people during the day. While staff in homeless emergency accommodation are doing their best, the reality is that there are young people who are on the street and engaging with other young people who are in addiction, who may be out begging or who are engaging in anti-social behaviour. They are exposed to that, whereas if there were a more dedicated service they might not get into that kind of behaviour. I know about the youth advocates, but it is my understanding from the other youth workers in the area who meet these young people that there are not enough of those youth advocates. There are not enough services for these young people. I believe that some of the youth advocates are meeting the young people in their cars for a few minutes just to engage with them so I believe there is a gap there. It would be good to find out some information on this. How many are involved and what are these short times they are in emergency services?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I appreciate the additional points and questions raised by Deputy O'Sullivan. They are good questions and I will certainly commit to getting the information identified by the Deputy. I am very clear that the Deputy's question relates to gaps, even though there is a special project or service there, and I hear what the Deputy is saying. The gaps may be around there not being enough people involved in that project. If that is the case, we must ask how many more are needed. A gap can also be in the kinds of services that are provided as distinct from just the numbers of people offering a service. Perhaps this could also be looked at. I think of the north inner city task force and the commitment in that part of the city for the next period of time. Perhaps that is another area where can take a look at these problems and issues.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I thank the Minister for her reply. Not all these young people are from that area of Dublin. Some of them are from outside Dublin, from other parts of Ireland, and there are some who are foreign national young people. It would be good if they could be encouraged, helped and supported to engage with the other youth projects in the area. Some of the projects are during the day, but others are not. There is more that can be done with this group. It was difficult to listen to youth workers saying that these young people are not yet into anti-social behaviour, not yet into addiction and not yet into crime. There were, however, real fears that this is where they were heading because of the lack of engagement with them. It would be good if we had more detailed information on this, and we could see where to take it from there.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I certainly can promise the Deputy that, to see how we can find the information. If the Deputy has any suggestions or recommendations, maybe we can have a conversation or a meeting with my officials later in that regard. I take the point that these young people are not necessarily just from the place the Deputy represents and where she resides.

I hear what the Deputy says around the issue. Whether it is an inter-agency approach or inter-services approach, many people are doing lots of different things in various contexts, and yet there are still gaps and they need to take a look at that. Perhaps it might also be the case that we could find some of the information we need by going to national and local youth organisations, who no doubt are keen on this matter and who would have a view on it.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 26. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the status of the implementation of the access and inclusion model; her views on whether it will be sufficiently accessible to all children who are in need of extra assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15218/17]

Deputy Kathleen Funchion: Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion The question relates to the access and inclusion model. I have read the Department's announcement about the opening up of 900 places to be made available on the higher education programme for leadership for inclusion in early years settings, known as LINC. A number of workers have raised some concerns and issues around AIM in respect of the best interests of the child. Will the Minister give an update on the implementation of the access and inclusion model? Does she believe it will be accessible to all those children who are in need of extra assistance?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am very pleased with the progress made to date in implementing the access and inclusion model, AIM. To date, 1,820 children with a disability have benefited from the supports it provides and this number will grow over time. AIM is a child-centred model, involving seven levels of progressive support to enable the full inclusion and meaningful participation of children with disabilities in the early childhood care and education, ECCE, programme.

Since AIM was launched in June 2016, all universal elements of the model levels one to three have been implemented in line with project timelines. Specifically, a new higher education programme for leadership for inclusion in early years settings, known as LINC, has been launched with provision for 900 students annually for four years. The first intake of 900 students commenced the LINC programme in September 2016 and applications have been invited for the next intake of 900 students to commence in September 2017. In addition to this, an inclusion charter and updated diversity, equality and inclusion guidelines have been published and a national programme of training supports is being rolled out.

  All the targeted elements of AIM, levels four to seven, are also fully operational. At level four, 50 early years inclusion specialists have been appointed and the special mentoring support service has been rolled out. I recently approved an additional 18 posts for this service.

  At level five, a national scheme for the provision of specialised equipment, appliances and minor alterations has been developed and rolled out. At level six, 50 additional HSE therapists have been appointed to support the delivery of the necessary therapy services, and at level seven, a national scheme for the provision of additional capitation to support additional assistance in the ECCE setting has also been developed and rolled out. The funding allocation for AIM in 2017 is €32.42 million.

Deputy Kathleen Funchion: Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion I thank the Minister for her answer. I will pass on to her some of the concerns that were raised by the workers. Training, for example, was done on a lottery system. Access to training was not necessarily available to services that could have really benefited from the training and some did not get it. Some services could have waited another year or so for the training and they received it. It is good to see that the figure of 900 places is an annual figure but is there some way the training allocations could be a little bit fairer even if it was on first come first served basis rather than a lottery system? While the aim is to have all services receive the training, at the moment it is rolled out a bit unfairly.

There was also concern from practitioners who previously worked in services that focused on children with additional needs that the mainstreaming into all services of children who have additional needs provides the potential for some children to fall through the system if the inclusion model does not suit them. It is obviously a welcome measure and I understand the theory behind it, but these are the concerns. I have run over time so I will leave it at that for now.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I thank Deputy Funchion. I will bring these concerns back to my officials, particularly on the application for and acceptance onto the LINC programme. The Deputy wonders if the lottery system is the fairest system there could be. It is my understanding that this was well thought out and identified. That is a form and an approach to fairness as distinct from what the Deputy has suggested, such as the first come first served approach. I am not so sure that this approach would necessarily be fair. I have spoken to providers also and I am aware that there are different instances or circumstances where, within a particular area, they were willing to share a LINC person if that person was able to be accepted, other than ahead of other settings also.


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