Thursday, 9 July 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
1188. Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to recruit extra staff to the Educational Welfare Board and the National Educational Psychological Service, both of which will prioritise disadvantaged schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29446/09]
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Deputy Seán Haughey): The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) as the National body with responsibility for school attendance. The general functions of the Board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.
The service has been developed incrementally, and, in April 2007, sanction was given to the Board for 15 additional staff bringing the total authorised staffing posts to 109 of which 104 are currently filled. In 2009 the allocation to the Board is €9.9 million. The funding allocation to the Board has increased incrementally as the service developed and since its establishment in 2003.
In May this year I announced plans to expand the remit of the NEWB with effect from the 1st September 2009, to include responsibility for the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL), the School Completion Programme (SCP) and the Visiting Teacher Service (VTS) for Traveller pupils as well as the National Educational Welfare Service. The expanded remit will bring together four individual services under one common management team thereby providing for a single, more focused, strategic direction at local, regional and national levels reflecting equally the nature and strength of each of the services.
The integration of these services brings together some 750 personnel employed throughout the country under the management of the new expanded NEWB. The underlying rationale for this new single strategic approach, acknowledging and utilising the combined strengths and capacities of the four services, is to deliver better outcomes for children, families and schools.
Combining these four services to deliver a composite service at national, regional and local levels is a positive development and one that will in time realise significant benefits. During the transition to full integration all services are committed to maintaining continuity of services to children, families and schools.
As the Deputy is aware, in regard to further improving the service to schools, I was pleased to announce recently, an increase in the funding available to NEPS which will allow for the recruitment of additional psychologists. Recruitment of these psychologists is currently underway from an existing panel of qualified personnel and upon its depletion discussions will commence between my Department and the Public Appointments Service in relation to the establishment of a new panel in this regard.
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