Independent Review of Accessible Childcare Measures: Zappone 2,822 children with disabilities access targeted supports in first year

Independent Review of Accessible Childcare Measures: Zappone

2,822 children with disabilities access targeted supports in first year

850 practitioners to graduate from specialised training

“Accessibility is key to radical new approach to childcare”


Thursday 10th August 2017

An independent review is to take place into a Government programme which supports children with disabilities in accessing childcare, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Figures for the first year show that 2,822 children are getting direct supports from the Access Inclusion Model (AIM) with thousands more enjoying wider benefits.

In addition 850 pre-school practitioners will graduate from special training in the coming weeks while a further 950 will enrol in September.

The model was launched last year by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, to ensure that all children can take advantage of Government supported pre-school education.

Announcing the review Minister Zappone said:

“Turning one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world into the best requires action on accessibility, affordability and quality.

Year one of the Access Inclusion Model (AIM) has delivered real benefits: thousands of children now attend childcare services which are more inclusive in addition 2,822 children have received direct supports including specialised equipment and therapy services while 850 pre-school practitioners have completed a special training programme.

While the figures are impressive it is important that childcare policy responds to the needs and experiences of children, parents and providers. In order to ensure our supports deliver the best results possible I am now ordering an Independent Review of the first year of AIM.

The End of Year One Review will gather information reflecting the experiences of the children, parents and pre-school practitioners participating in AIM as well as information from disability representative organisations and key stakeholders involved in delivering AIM supports.  The Review will be both process and outcome focussed and will include:

  •     Quantitative survey of a representative sample of parents and pre-school practitioners

  •     Qualitative interviews with a small sample of parents; pre-school practitioners and disability representative organisations, including HSE funded        disability service providers and

  •     Qualitative interviews with a small sample of stakeholders involved in delivering AIM supports including the City and County Childcare Committees, the Early Years Specialist Service, the HSE and Pobal.

This work is timely as we continue to radically change childcare to correct years of under-investment.

If we are to achieve our ambitious goal of building a childcare system that will deliver for generations of Irish children – then it must be fully inclusive.

AIM has made a difference now after one year in operation it is time to examine what more can be done.”

The Request for Tenders has been published on eTenders. It is expected that a contract will be awarded to the successful Tenderer in the autumn. This Review is expected to take six months to complete.


The Access Inclusion Model (AIM)

The goal of AIM is to empower pre-school providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience, ensuring that every eligible child can fully participate in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme and reap the benefits of quality early years care and education.

AIM is a child-centred model, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the pre-school provider.

Levels 1-3 provide universal support to create a culture of inclusion within pre-school settings, by providing training and information for pre-school providers and parents.

Level 1 works to foster an inclusive culture. In 2016, a new Inclusion Charter for the pre-school sector was published, alongside updated and strengthened Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education. Training on the guidelines is now being rolled out nationally.

Level 2 works to inform parents and pre-school providers about AIM. The website contains comprehensive information on AIM and on how to apply for the schemes and supports. The website also contains the new Inclusion Charter and Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education, as well as a range of other resources.

Level 3 works to support a qualified and confident workforce. In September, a second intake of 950 staff from pre-school settings will be funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to undertake Leadership for Inclusion (LINC), a Level 6 Special Purpose Award. From September 2017, the first cohort of some 850 programme graduates will perform a new leadership role of Inclusion Co-ordinator within their pre-school setting. This will attract an increase of €2 per child per week in the rate of ECCE capitation payable to that setting.

Where a pre-school provider, in conjunction with a parent, considers that they may need some additional support in order to meet the needs of a child with a disability in an inclusive way, they can apply for a suite of more targeted supports, namely:

Level 4 provides expert early years educational advice and support. This service is available to pre-school providers and is based within the Better Start Early Years Specialist Service. To date, 2,757 applications for Level 4 support have been approved. 18 additional posts have recently been filled in the Early Years Specialist Service, bringing the total to 68 staff.

Level 5 provides grants for equipment and minor alterations. 304 applications for equipment have been approved, as well as 33 applications for minor alterations grants.

Level 6 provides therapeutic intervention for children who need it: 81 applications have been referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the relevant therapeutic supports.

Level 7 provides additional assistance in the pre-school room and 1,321 applications have been approved to date. In line with emerging best practice to support the integration and independence of children with a disability, AIM does not fund Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). Rather, it provides financial support to the pre-school provider, which can be used either to reduce the adult to child