Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, T.D., today announced that additional funding for the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) secured in Budget 2021 will be made available from January. AIM payments, which enable ECCE (free pre-school) providers to support inclusion of children by reducing the adult-child ratio within the pre-school room, will rise by 7% from €195 to €210 per week.
The Access and Inclusion Model supports the meaningful participation of children with disabilities in the ECCE programme. The ECCE State scheme, provides 2 years of free pre-school for children between 2 years 8 months and school entry. AIM includes seven levels of supports for children and the pre-school, one of which funds services either to reduce the number of children in the pre-school room or to buy in additional assistance to enable a lower adult-child ratio. This assistance is a shared resource for the pre-school room, ensuring children with a disability can participate, learn and socialise with their peers in an inclusive and supportive environment.
Since AIM was introduced in 2016, over 11,000 children have benefited from lower adult to child ratios. This AIM support generally allows 2 qualified early education practitioners to work with each group of 11 children. Tens of thousands more children have benefited from the other supports available through the AIM programme.
Minister O’Gorman welcomed the increase in funding stating “Every child should have access to high quality early learning and care. Through the award-winning Access and Inclusion Model, we can support children with disabilities in accessing mainstream pre-schools and help pre-schools recruit and retain qualified staff to support inclusion. This increase in funding is a clear sign of my Department’s commitment to continue fostering an inclusive culture, one where all children are supported in benefitting from early learning and care.”
The increased capitation will be paid to early learning and care services approved for AIM additional assistance support from the first week of January 2021. The 7% increase will align AIM capitation rates to current ECCE capitation rates, which were increased by 7% in September 2018.