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Frequently Asked Questions

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)

When a pre-school is in contract with DCEDIY to deliver the ECCE programme and the child qualifies on age grounds there is no cost to the parent, guardian or carer for attendance during ECCE programme hours or for AIM support . See the ECCE Eligibility and Programme Rules for more details.

A list of current ECCE pre-school providers in your area is available from your local City or County Childcare Committee on

ECCE is a free pre-school programme providing all children with access to pre-school 3 hours per day, 5 days per week. Children can be registered on the ECCE Programme if they are over 2 years and 8 months before 1st September and remain in free pre-school until they transfer to primary school (provided that they are not older than 5½ years at the end of the pre-school year. See the ECCE eligibility criteria.

No, AIM is not an SNA model. AIM is a holistic model designed to empower pre-school providers to deliver inclusive settings and to support them by providing a suite of different services and supports tailored to the needs of each individual child in the context of their pre-school setting.

Where approval for Level 7 additional capitation has been agreed, and in circumstances where the maximum grant has been approved, this can be used to reduce the adult to child ratio in the ECCE room, from 1 adult and 11 children down to 1 adult and 8 children, without any financial loss to the service.  Alternatively, it can be used to buy in additional assistance to the pre-school room.

Any additional assistance bought into the ECCE room would not constitute part of the staff to child ratios for the purposes of the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016. This is to safeguard the use of this resource to meet the particular needs for which it was funded.

Yes, if both the specialist pre-school and the mainstream pre-school are both in contract to provide the ECCE programme. The specialist pre-school must provide a letter stating that it is in the best interests of the child to attend a mainstream pre-school for the remainder of the week. A letter must also be provided by the mainstream pre-school stating they are aware that the child is also attending a specialist pre-school. Both letters must be forwarded directly to  in DCEDIY for approval.

Children are able to register on the ECCE Programme (free pre-school) if they are over 2 years and 8 months before 1st September and remain in free pre-school until they transfer to primary school (provided that they are not older than 5½ years at the end of the pre-school year, please see the ECCE eligibility criteria).

Privacy and Governance

The AIM Privacy Statement in conjunction with AIM Informed Consent governs collection, retention, use and sharing of personal information about a child, parent (or guardian or carer) and pre-school service in relation to AIM.

Information may be shared with relevant professionals working under AIM, such as Early Years Specialists, HSE or HSE funded health professionals, Pobal, Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth , Department of Education, National Council for Special Education and City or County Childcare Committees. Information will only be shared with relevant professionals for the purpose of supporting the child in the pre-school setting.

All information will be stored in a secure manner by Pobal and the Early Years Specialist Service. Hard copies will be held in locked cabinets. Online files will be encrypted and password protected and only accessed by authorised personnel.

Information provided as part of an application for any targeted supports under AIM will be used to identify what, if any, additional supports or resources a child may need in order to participate in the ECCE Programme.

Two cross-Government groups have been established to drive and oversee implementation of AIM; a Cross Sectoral Implementation Group and a Project Team. These groups review implementation progress on an ongoing basis.

In the initial years of its implementation, AIM is subject to regular review. An End of Year 3 Evaluation of AIM is currently taking place to review the effectiveness of AIM.

AIM Supports

Where the maximum rate of level 7 capitation has been approved, the ratio can be reduced from 1 adult to 11 children down to 1 adult to 8 children, without causing any financial loss to the service.

Yes, an application for level 7 additional capitation can be granted on a pro-rata basis (i.e. for the remaining hours) if necessary.

When approving an application for level 7 capitation, Pobal (the scheme administrator) will also stipulate any conditions relating to its use.

Examples include specifying that funding should be used to: free up the Inclusion Co-ordinator or another experienced staff member so that he/she can dedicate more time to the child with the complex disability; enable a staff member to be trained in specific care routines or therapeutic strategies so as to enable a child to attend and participate in the ECCE programme; to reduce the overall staff ratio in the setting; and/or to obtain additional assistance in the classroom from a person with certain minimum qualifications.

To apply for level 6 therapeutic supports the entire application form on the Early Years Hive, including the My Inclusion Plan, should be completed. The Early Years Specialist Service will look at the information submitted and, if therapeutic help is needed, will contact the HSE.

Yes, where this is needed for a child to access the play area. Other external alterations to the play area, or requests to improve the quality of outdoor areas or outdoor play equipment (standard or specialised) are not eligible under this scheme.

No, the pre-school provider does not have to procure the equipment. Pobal, on behalf of the DCEDIY, will source all equipment approved under the AIM application process and will ensure that it is delivered directly to the pre-school setting.

The maximum grant allowable is €7,000 (including VAT) for minor alterations, of which a maximum of €300 (including VAT) can be used towards professional fees where an Architect or Engineer’s report is required.

A full list of equipment which is funded by the scheme can be found here: AIM Level 5 Sample List of Eligible Equipment

Information on completing your application can be found here: AIM Level 5 Application Support

Applications are made on the Early Years Hive platform.  Information on completing the application can be found here: AIM Level 5 application support.  Please note that parental (or guardian or carer) consent is required to make an application.

An Access and Inclusion Plan will be developed to support the child’s participation in pre-school. This will be based on observations made by the parent or guardian or carer, the service provider and the Early Years Specialist, with further observations and assessments made by clinicians.

Early Years Specialists are qualified (Honours Degree Graduates or post-Graduates) early childhood professionals with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of inclusive early childhood education and care. They have experience of working with children with disabilities, their parents, guardians and carers and with their families in pre-school settings. They have a lot of knowledge in evidence-based best practice, mentoring and facilitation. They are Garda vetted and receive ongoing professional support and supervision.

No, the capitation will be paid based on the number of children registered on the ECCE programme who are attending the service.

To qualify for the additional capitation of €2 per child per week for each child registered on the ECCE programme, the pre-school provider must employ a LINC graduate who has agreed to take on the role of Inclusion Co-ordinator within that Early Childhood Care and Education setting. An application for the additional capitation must be made online via the Early Years Hive platform at the beginning of the pre-school year or when the Inclusion Coordinator takes up the role. Please note applications will not be back-dated.

No, AIM is based on the needs of the child in the context of the pre-school setting. It does not require any diagnosis, recognising that many children do not have a diagnosis of a disability when starting pre-school.

Where a pre-school service provider needs advice on what supports are required to enable a child’s participation in ECCE, they can raise a request via the Early Years Hive or contact the Early Years Provider Centre (EYPC) Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (10am to 5pm on Wednesday) at 01 511 7222. Completing the online Access and Inclusion Profile with the parent, guardian or carer will also help in highlighting and clarifying the need for any additional supports.

To access supports, you should firstly contact the pre-school which your child will attend. Together with your pre-school provider, you can make an application for support through the Early Years Hive Platform.  This is an online platform used by pre-schools to register children participating in the ECCE and other DCEDIY childcare programmes. Signed parental, guardian or carer consent is required to complete the application process.

Applying for AIM

A pre-school provider, in partnership with a parent, guardian or carer, can apply for level 7 additional capitation by completing the entire application form on the Early Years Hive platform, including the Access and Inclusion Profile and the level 7 ‘service request’ within that profile. Following this, an Early Years Specialist will be in contact with the pre-school provider to progress the application.

Applications for level 5 supports can be for:

  • Minor alterations
  • Equipment for a visual or hearing impairment
  • Equipment for other disabilities

In each case, a report from a designated professional is required confirming that:

(a) The proposed alterations or equipment are necessary and critical to enabling the child’s participation in the ECCE programme in the pre-school,
(b) For minor alterations, the proposed works are compliant with the Building (Part M Amendment) Regulations 2010, and
(c) The equipment requested is not already available in the pre-school or capable of being transferred and used in the pre-school setting.

For minor alterations, the designated professional can be (1) an architect, (2) an engineer or (3) an occupational therapist working for, or on behalf of, the HSE.

For equipment for a visual or hearing impairment, the designated professional can be (1) a Department of Education visiting teacher, (2) an occupational therapist working for, or on behalf of, the HSE or (3) a speech and language therapist working for, or on behalf of, the HSE.

For equipment for all other types of disability, the designated professional can be a health and social care professional working for, or on behalf of the HSE, in any of these roles: (1) occupational therapist, (2) physiotherapist, (3) speech and language therapist or (4) other agreed category of health and social care professional.

For further information see the Capital Guidelines about the content of professional reports.

Following a review of the information provided within the Access and Inclusion Profile, an Early Years Specialist will contact the pre-school within 4-6 weeks of submission with the results of the application.

The Informed Consent form, which can be completed by a child’s parent, guardian or carer, is part of the Access and Inclusion Profile and can be downloaded here: AIM Informed Consent. The consent form can be printed and signed when the profile is being completed. The pre-school provider should then upload the signed consent form and submit it with the completed online Access and Inclusion Profile.

Informed consent can also be completed by selecting the Online Consent option during the AIM Level 4 application process.

The Access and Inclusion Profile asks for information on the child in 5 areas: Physical abilities, Communication abilities, Social skills, Behaviour and Health.

For pre-school information, the profile seeks information on the accessibility of the environment, staff training and experience, policies and procedures.

The Access and Inclusion Profile helps to identify the child’s abilities and area(s) where additional support may be needed, for example, if the child uses mobility or communication aids or if he/she needs medical or personal care. This allows the pre-school service provider to identify what, if any, additional supports might be needed and to plan for the child’s participation in the ECCE setting. The profile also looks at the ability of the setting to cater for the needs of each child.

The pre-school provider, together with the parent, guardian or carer, can apply for support by completing an Access and Inclusion Profile as part of an online application process on the Early Years Hive Platform at Additional information, such as health reports, where applicable, can also be uploaded, although this is at the discretion of the parent, guardian or carer.

AIM courses and qualifications

A broad multi-annual programme of formal and informal training for pre-school staff in relation to disability and inclusion is funded by DCEDIY and delivered by the Early Years Specialists in collaboration with the City and County Childcare Committees, the HSE and other agencies. Details of the training programme will be available on the News webpage and on your local City or County Childcare Committee website when available.

No, only one qualified Inclusion Co-ordinator is required per service. However, if you own a number of pre-school services, in order to qualify for the €2 capitation, you must have one Inclusion Co-ordinator in each service.

Yes, anyone wishing to become an Inclusion Co-ordinator must complete this qualification.

The Role of the Inclusion Co-ordinator is to provide leadership within the early years setting in relation to issues of diversity, equality and inclusion.

No, this new higher education Level 6 award is a special purpose award and does not replace the Level 6 Childcare Award. However, this Level 6 special purpose award is a DCEDIY recognised qualification for the purposes of ECCE Room Leader.

You can get a list of DCEDIY recognised qualifications here

Yes, there will be some Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Please see the relevant details on the course website

The duration of the programme is one year. It is delivered in 6 individual modules, incorporating two modules across each of three semesters.

The programme is based on a blended model of delivery (i.e. some online learning and some face-to-face sessions) and addresses the flexible learning requirements of the ECCE sector.

As the majority of the study or collaboration work will take place online, each participant will only need to attend face-to-face settings for 7 days (Saturdays) each year.

The programme will run on an annual basis, with approximately 900 places each year.

For further information see

Pre-school providers are eligible to nominate a candidate for the programme if they hold a contract to deliver the ECCE Programme, funded by the DCEDIY. Candidates nominated by settings must hold a Level 5 Major Award in Childcare.

To apply for the programme, applicants should visit the website The deadline for applications is 4 weeks after the application form is made available.

The updated Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines are intended to support and guide all those working in the early childhood care and education sector to explore, understand and develop inclusive practices for the benefit of all children and their families.

The purpose of the new Inclusion Charter is to demonstrate the sector’s commitment to inclusion. Pre-school providers are asked to sign-up to the Charter by completing an inclusion policy for their setting. For reference purposes, an Inclusion Policy template is contained within the Guidelines.

Yes, a national training programme for the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines and the Inclusion Charter will be organised by the City and County Childcare Committees.  Details of this training will be posted on when available.

Information and Resources

In addition to this website, pre-school providers should contact their local City or County Childcare Committee for information about AIM or for help in submitting applications for supports under AIM, particularly if they do not have internet access.

If a pre-school provider needs specialist advice for a particular case or application, they should contact the Early Years Specialist Service based in Pobal. The service can be reached by email ( or by phone, 01 511 7222, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (10am to 5pm on Wednesday).

If a pre-school provider is having difficulty submitting an AIM application, they should contact Pobal by email ( or by phone, 01 511 7222, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (10am to 5pm on Wednesday).

About the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM)

The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) is designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access and fully participate in the ECCE programme. It is a child-centred model, involving 7 levels of support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the pre-school setting.

Levels 1–3 of the model have a range of universal supports designed to promote and support an inclusive culture within pre-school settings through a variety of educational and capacity-building initiatives.

However, where a pre-school provider, in partnership with a parent, guardian or carer, considers that some further additional support may be necessary to meet the needs of a particular child, they can apply for one or more targeted supports under levels 4 – 7 of AIM.  Additional targeted supports could be for expert early childhood care and educational advice and mentoring (level 4), for specialised equipment, appliances and minor alterations (level 5), therapeutic supports (level 6) or additional capitation to fund extra assistance in the ECCE pre-school room (level 7).

Access refers to the child’s ability to attend pre-school. Supporting access includes removing barriers and catering for the individual needs of the child. Inclusion refers to the child’s ability to participate as fully and actively as possible in the pre-school programme. Where necessary, appropriate supports will be provided under the Access and Inclusion Model to ensure full and meaningful participation.

More about Access and Inclusion Model

The AIM application process for each new pre-school year opens in May of that year. Parents, guardians, carers and pre-school providers have enough time to plan ahead for the new pre-school year starting the following September.  These application dates apply to all AIM applications.  It is important to apply early as some specialised equipment may take longer to get.