Submission to Child Care (Pre-school services) Regulations 1996 and (Amendment) Regulations 1996 & (Amendment) Regulations 1997 Review Group



The National Disability Authority (NDA) welcomes the establishment of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations Review Group and the opportunity to make a submission to this Review Group.

The NDA was established in June 2000, as part of the government strategy to mainstream services for people with disabilities and to promote and help to secure the rights of people with disabilities.

The NDA will achieve this by:

  • Influencing public policy and legislation
  • Working to ensure that services to people with disabilities are of the highest standards and quality.

In its first strategic plan 2001–2003 “A Matter of Rights”, outlines the Vision of the NDA of the creation of a society in which people with disabilities have the right and the opportunity to:

  • Develop and fully use their abilities, talents and skills
  • Enjoy equality and full participation.

One of the core Values of the National Disability Authority is to promote an inclusive society based on principles of equality, participation and choice.

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Context and Background

Education is a particularly powerful tool in creating equality for people with disabilities in society. Early experiences of inclusion or exclusion are crucial in shaping the future participation of people with disabilities. It is not acceptable that a child, whether because of mental or physical or socio-economic factors should be inhibited from participation in education.

Opportunities and barriers experienced by people with disabilities at any level of education – pre-school, first, second or third level or in adult, continuing or second chance education – impact critically on the choices they can make in the future and the extent to which they can achieve their full potential.

This review of the Child-care(Pre-school services) Regulations offers a timely opportunity to ensure that barriers are removed and opportunities for children with disabilities maximised at this stage in their education and personal development.

This submission is made in the context of the 1996 report of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities. The Commission’s Report, A Strategy for Equality, was the most significant and comprehensive report affecting the lives of people with disabilities in Ireland for many years. This report, coupled with other developments in equality legislation, such as the Equal Status Act, 2000, establishes a rights and equality agenda for people with disabilities. A key element in the Government’s overall strategy for people with disabilities is the mainstreaming of services. It places clear obligations and requirements on service providers to ensure that their systems, services and products are accessible to all. The Commission stated that 'every encouragement and practical support, including financial support, should be given to pre-school services who wish to include children with disabilities in their services'. 

The NDA views the review of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) as an ideal opportunity to take the first steps towards the achievement of this mainstreaming agenda by ensuring that children with disabilities are fully included in accessing and availing of Child Care (Pre-School) Services.

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General Strategies to Equalise Status in Pre-School Education

There are a number of key strategies applying to all levels of education, both formal and informal, which, when implemented, will do much to equalise the status of people with disabilities and will ensure a far greater level of equalised outcome in  childrens future lives. They are

  • The right of all children to an education
  • The right of all children with disabilities to access and participate in the same educational opportunities in the same settings as their non-disabled peers (inclusive education)
  • The rights of parents of children with disabilities to be respected and to be involved in all stages of education provision for their children

By children with disabilities this submission refers to children with, for example:

  • Mobility difficulties
  • Hearing impairments
  • Visual impairments
  • Learning disabilities
  • Mental health difficulties
  • Hidden disabilities (e.g. epilepsy, asthma)

The NDA draws an important distinction between impairment (e.g. a person who cannot walk, or does not hear or see clearly) and disability - the environment that an impaired person must negotiate which causes disablement. For example, not being able to read print is a barrier to a blind person or steps are a barrier to a person in a wheelchair.  Consequently people with impairments are disabled through exclusion from equal participation in the physical environment and through restricted access to information.

The Review Group has the opportunity at this early stage of its establishment to acknowledge in its review and recommendations, the promotion of an inclusive and accessible Child Care (Pre-School) service that acknowledges and supports the needs of children with disabilities.

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On this basis, the National Disability Authority would like to make the following recommendations:

1. Adult/Child Ratios

  • A central element in the assessment of the competency of supervising adults should include a compulsory basic Equality/ Disability Awareness training for the supervising adults working in the area (Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulation, 1996, Article 7: a sufficient number of competent adults are supervising the pre-school children).

  • Such an equality/disability awareness training for staff would enhance greatly the delivery of an appropriate education to the child and ensure, inter alia, the use of appropriate books, toys, games and other play materials suitable for development of a child with a disability.

2. Record Keeping

  • Article 13, (1), (f) of the Child Care Pre-School Services Regulation, 1996, Article 13, (1), (f), notes the inclusion of data on the details of any illness, disability or allergy suffered by a pre-school child. These data should be kept updated and staff members need to remain informed of any changes regarding this.

  • There is insufficient collection and dissemination of data relating to people with disabilities in Ireland. The collection of data on pre-school children with disabilities should be linked to the databases of the Health Research Board ( i.e. the Intellectual Disability Database and the Physical and Sensory Database).

  • Provision needs to be made for linking with the proposed National Special Education Council (as provided for in Education Act 1998 and further referenced in the published Education Disabilities Bill 2002). This linkage is important for the notification and registration of a child with a disability and to ensure a co-ordinated approach in education provision from the earliest stages.

  • Information required to be provided to parents should be made available on request in alternative formats.

3. Premises and Facilities

  • In relation to the accessibility of the premises and facilities, the National Disability Authority recommends that the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulation, 1996, Article 18, should also include a condition that buildings be made accessible to children with disabilities.

  • All new facilities should be approved on condition that they comply with Building Regulations Part M.

  • Consideration should be given to a grants scheme by the Department of Health and Children to enable existing facilities make appropriate adaptations as are necessary to accommodate children with disabilities.

4. Inspection

  • Section B of the Explanatory Guide to Requirements and Procedures for Notification and Inspection lists the purpose of the Inspection process and outlines a number of key areas that Inspectors consider in their inspections. The National Disability Authority recommends that inspectors pay special attention to the inclusion and integration of children with disabilities.

5. Other recommendations

5.1 Assessment

  • When a child with a disability has received a needs assessment prior to commencing pre-school,the Health Board should make additional funding available to the parents/guardians of children with disabilities who want to avail of Pre-School Child Care Services. The funding should be attached to the child with a disability. This funding mechanism will enable the parents/guardians to purchase the necessary services on behalf of their children. This recommendation of financial support is partly covered by Section B of the Explanatory Guide to Requirements and Procedures for Notification and Inspection where the needs for the provision of advice, assistance and support in caring for a child with a disability or special needs is acknowledged.

  •  In situations where a child with a disability is attending a pre-school and it becomes apparent that a child requires a proper and professional individual assessment of needs both the  Health Board and the proposed  National Special Education Council should be notified immediately so that an appropriate assessment can be provided for the child.

5.2 Equal Status/Discrimination

  • The NDA have been made aware through complaints of pre-schools who have refused admission to a child with a mild learning disability. Children with mild learning disabilities do not require any special facilities etc and in this instance it is a discrimination issue.
    The Regulations should ensure that services have clear admission procedures in place that prevents the potential occurrence of discriminatory practices against children with disabilities.  Such regulations should be in line with the Equal Status Act 2000.

5.3 Fees

  •  The Regulations should also include a statement, which prohibits pre-school services from charging additional fees for the provision of services a child with a disability.

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The above recommendations if implemented expeditiously will contribute to the development and education of children with disabilities from the earliest stages.

The National Disability Authority views the review of the Child Care(Pre-school Services) regulations as providing an unique opportunity for a major contribution towards the integration of people with disabilities into the mainstream of society.

The National Disability Authority as a Statutory Agency would welcome the opportunity to dialogue further with the Department and to contribute constructively in this process.

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Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities (1996), A Strategy for Equality. Report of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities.

National Disability Authority (2001), A Matter of Rights: NDA Strategic Plan 2001 – 2003.

National Disability Authority (2001), Public Attitudes Towards People With Disabilities in Ireland”, NDA 2001.

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Page last updated: 09/27/2012