Young children with disabilities in Tallaght and surrounding communities will enjoy improved access to pre-school services under a series of initiatives launched by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and local TD, Katherine Zappone.
Minister Zappone hosted the national launch and a new information website at the Ashland Nursery in Tallaght yesterday and encouraged local childcare providers and parents to act now to ensure enrolments would start in September.
Both providers and parents of children with disabilities are being advised by the Dublin South West TD to go to www.preschoolaccess.ie to get more information on the new ‘Access Inclusion Model: AIM’.
Speaking at the launch Minister Zappone said:
“Parents and pre-school providers who wish to avail of AIM should make their applications now so that they can plan for enrolments in September.
“I am committed to working towards a more vibrant, inclusive and tolerant society which supports all children, equally, to realise their potential, today we have taken another important step to achieve that.
“Our approach is child centred. From the website providers and parents in Tallaght can view how we are working to ensure that children with disabilities can better access childcare. A new inclusion charter, support from a team of 50 experts as well as access to specialised equipment.
“We hope to have an impact immediately with the first enrolments taking place as a result of AIM this September – but for that to happen it is important that preparations are made now and it is important that people do visit www.preschoolaccess.ie
“It is an honour to see at first hand the fantastic work being carried out in our communities by facilities such as the Ashling Nursery and as someone who has campaigned tirelessly on the issue of access to childcare I believe AIM is an important step to services which are equal and fair.”
It is forecast that the new supports will help up to 6,000 children with disabilities.
With around 65,000 children eligible for the current preschool year, parents and childcare providers say many are losing out because of barriers such as specialised needs and a lack of trained staff.
A separate scheme will be open from tomorrow which will provide additional capitation to preschool providers where this is critical to fund extra support in the classroom and enable a child’s participation in preschool.
Lorraine Dempsey of the Special Needs Parents Association said the lack of any formal plan to cater for children with disabilities had been a major source of frustration for parents .
However she said the new programme will transform the support available to children with additional needs.
“There has been phenomenal work going on behind the scenes to get this over the line,” she said.
“It has the potential to revolutionise the preschool experience for children with special needs, and could have a very positive impact for children progressing on to primary level.”