Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, Anne Rabbitte TD has called on Minister Zappone to intervene to ensure flexibility and fair play for children with special needs when using the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme.

Deputy Rabbitte was commenting after being contacted by parents of children with special needs who have been told their child cannot access their ECCE hours because they are also in receipt of HSE Pre-School Specialised support.

“This issue applies to a very small number of children, and I do feel that if parents, childcare providers and development specialists are all in agreement that a child will do better by attending pre-school in addition to undergoing Pre-School Specialised support; then it should be facilitated.

“The benefit of ECCE is that children can learn and play with other children, something which is just as important for children with disabilities as it is for those without.

“If we, for all intents and purposes, ban children who are getting HSE Pre-School Specialised support from attending an ECCE placement, we severely hamper the socialisation process which is crucial in terms of preparing children for school and other learning settings.

“Pre-School Specialised support does not replace, nor can it replace, ECCE. They are different programmes of support, and while we need to be cognisant of overall budgets, the number of children that is affected by this apparent prohibition is very limited.

“Stopping children with special needs that require Pre-School Specialised support from attending ECCE will damage the ability of those children to integrate into mainstream schooling in the future.

“I am calling on Minister Zappone to intervene and ensure that these children get the benefit of both ECCE and HSE Pre-School Specialised support,” concluded Rabbitte.

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