Dáil Éireann - Volume 675 - 17 February, 2009
Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.
Deputy Joe Costello Deputy Joe Costello
Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science his proposals for a  new residential development for blind and visually impaired children at a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [5623/09]
Deputy Batt O’Keeffe Deputy Batt O’Keeffe
Deputy Batt O’Keeffe: I take it that the Deputy is referring to the proposed Centre of Excellence for Visually Impaired at St. Joseph’s School, Drumcondra, Dublin 9.
The Deputy may be aware that a decision was taken in 2003 that the Centre as originally proposed should not proceed having regard to the low and declining pupil numbers in the school for the visually impaired and the development costs involved, estimated to be in excess of €30m. A scaled-down version of a National Centre was subsequently proposed, to be staffed by a range of professionals to provide expert in-house assessment such as speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, mobility therapy and ophthalmology as well as counselling, pre-school and outreach support services. The school is already resourced through the normal supports available to schools generally.
You will also be aware that in the context of inclusive education, the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004 provides that a child (defined as a person who is not more than 18 years) with special educational needs must be educated in an inclusive setting unless such an arrangement is inconsistent with the best interests of the child or with the effective provision of education for those children with whom the child is to be educated.
In the past, children who were blind or had a visual impairment were unable to attend their local schools and had to travel distances to avail of specialised intervention. Today many of these children attend their local schools with additional special educational supports, where necessary. My Department, through the NCSE, funds additional teaching and special needs assistant support for these pupils where such additional supports are necessary. In addition, funding is provided for specialist equipment and/or assistive technology. My Department also funds the National Braille Production Centre which translates text books into Braille, Large Print and other formats. Current policy and best practice in regard to health service delivery for blind/visually impaired pupils is that they remain, and are supported, in their local communities.
I met with representatives from St. Joseph’s recently and a further meeting is being arranged to discuss the matter. My Department is willing to work with St. Joseph’s in the context of identifying any upgrading work required to the school that is consistent with the premises’ use for educational purposes. Any refurbishments will be considered in a prioritised manner. Along with all other areas of expenditure, the timing of these refurbishments is dependent on the resources available to the Government.
The responsibility for funding residential facilities rests with the health sector and the Deputy may wish to raise the matter directly with my colleague the Minister for Health and Children or Health Service Executive.
Question No. 485 answered with Question No. 483.
Dáil Éireann 675 Written Answers. Special Educational Needs.