“Meath Fight for the Future are a Group of Childcare Professionals who came together to from a working group in Meath to ensure that funding for Special Needs Assistants in early years services is continued and sufficient funding for this service is allocated through this year’s budget.
“Meath is in a unique position where for the past 18 years this scheme has been funded through the HSE, it is vital this service is continued, as the benefits to both the children and their families are huge, from the perspective of the child’s progression and development to the peace of mind for parents, knowing that their child is getting the best opportunity as they start their academic journey.
“I raised this issue with Minister James Reilly, Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, in the Dáil last week. I asked him about the possibility of developing this scheme further and rolling it out on a nationwide level. The Minister informed me that he has established an Interdepartmental Group to examine the issue of future investment in early childhood care, education and child care for school going children. The Group will consider how best to make to make appropriate provision for children with special needs who are accessing mainstream child care services. This Group will report back to the Minister by the summer. One of the issues the Minister would like to see addressed is the lack of uniformity of approach in different parts of the country.
“I also organised for Minister Reilly to meet with the Meath Fight for the Future Group, prior to their presentation to Oireachtas Members. I think the meeting was very positive and beneficial as the Minister was able to relate to the issues the Group are campaigning for and ultimately he understands and supports their campaign.
“The fact that each year the funding for this scheme is not definite, is a huge concern for parents. We really need to ensure that this is addressed. When the Interdepartmental Group is meeting & examining all aspects of education, early learning years in particular should be taken into account and serious consideration should be given to the introduction of a national scheme. It is vitally important for children to get the help they need at an early stage, especially those with special needs.
“I will continue to work with Meath Fight for the Future Group and Minister Reilly until a suitable solution is found”.