Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has said that the new programme for providing supports to children with disabilities in pre-school is a great day for educational equality for our children.
Speaking at the launch of the new programme, Doherty said “today is a great day for our children with disabilities, particularly those attending preschool. Accessibility to our education system was one of the primary reasons why I first entered into politics as two of my four children at home have learning disabilities.
“I knew quite quickly that I couldn’t influence meaningful change in our educational system from home and I am very proud to say that we have achieved a great amount for both children and adults living with disabilities in the last five years.
“I have worked closely with Minister for Children, James Reilly, and Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, for many years and I am thrilled to say that more than 7,500 children will benefit from this truly inclusive care and education system. Early years are vital for all children and this new Government funded support model will certainly make a real difference to children with disabilities allowing them to fully participate in free pre-school in mainstream school.
“We have seen many reports on education and children with disabilities; however the key differentiator in this instance is that the findings and actions included in the IDG Report launched today is the Budget of €17 million to ensure we see its recommendations through to their fruition.
“This is a model of support that is built up around the needs and abilities of each child, and their parents. Disability is obviously a broad spectrum, with different levels of complexity. The seven levels of supports range from universal supports to highly targeted ones based on the needs of the individual child.
“The model of supports launched today include: enhanced continuing professional development for early years practitioners; grants for equipment, appliances and minor alterations, increased capitation for certain complex cases, as well as access to therapeutic intervention. A Cross-Sectoral Implementation Group has been established to oversee implementation, and to monitor and review progress as the new model is embedded across the system, to develop a pre-school sector that is truly inclusive.”
Concluding, Doherty said “my children are no longer of pre-school going age but I know first-hand the struggles that some parents and children with disabilities may bear when entering pre-school, or not as the case may be. Today’s announcements will certainly make life easier for so, so many, and will have long term benefits for our children as they progress through the education system.”