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Press Release

Minister Zappone welcomes international recognition for AIM programme

Published: 5 December 2019
From: Department of Children and Youth Affairs
  • additional funding of €10 million secured under Budget 2020 for the programme, which provides both universal and targeted supports to help children with disabilities participate in mainstream pre-school
  • over 11,700 children in over 3,200 services nationally have received supports to date

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone TD, has today welcomed the shortlisting of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) for two significant international awards. The programme provides a range of both universal and targeted supports to help children with disabilities access and fully participate in free, mainstream pre-school.

AIM has been shortlisted for an Innovation award as part of the European Social Services Awards, as well as a Zero Project Award, in recognition of the programme’s significant contribution to children’s inclusion.

AIM supports respond to the needs of the child and to the needs of the pre-school setting the child is participating in. They promote inclusion for children with disabilities in mainstream pre-schools, and access for all children to the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) free pre-school programme. AIM was launched in June 2016, with the first supports rolled out in time for the 2016/2017 pre-school year.

Since the launch of the scheme, over 11,700 children in over 3,200 services nationally have benefited directly from targeted supports. In an independent review carried out in the second year of AIM’s operation, 78% of parents reported their child had benefited, and 76% of services said that AIM had made the culture at their preschool more inclusive.

Minister Zappone recently announced €10 million in additional funding for AIM under Budget 2020.

Welcoming the nominations, Minister Zappone said:

“Participation in pre-school benefits all children, and the benefits can be even greater for children with disabilities. We want to make sure early learning and care providers are given all the supports they need to make all our pre-schools truly inclusive.
"The increased funding for AIM under Budget 2020 will enable up to 1,000 more children to benefit directly from targeted supports.
"I am delighted that the AIM programme has been recognised for its innovation and its impact, and wish the team the best of luck in the awards.”

For more information on AIM, check www.aim.gov.ie.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor:

About AIM

The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) programme was launched in June 2016 by Minister Zappone. It provides essential supports to both children and their pre-schools to ensure all children can meaningfully participate in the ECCE free pre-school programme in a mainstream setting. Based on an ethos of inclusion of all children, its primary focus is the full participation of children with disabilities in the programme. AIM supports benefit not only children with disabilities but all children participating in the early learning and care service.

The supports available through AIM range from universal (for example, staff training) to more targeted supports, and these are responsive to the needs of both the child and the early learning and care service. After three years in operation, it has already had a large impact on the lives of children and the quality of pre-school provision with over 11,700 children in over 3,200 services nationally, directly benefiting from targeted supports since the programme’s introduction in 2016.

The budget for the AIM programme has been increased under Budget 2020, from €33 million to €43 million per year. This additional funding will go towards enabling an up to 1,000 more children to benefit directly from targeted supports.

The End of Year One Review of the AIM programme can be accessed here:

https://aim.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/aim-end-of-year-one-review.pdf

About the European Social Services Awards

The European Social Services Awards are organised by the European Social Network (ESN) to recognise excellence in social services, shining a spotlight on successful approaches and extraordinary ongoing work done by those managing, planning and delivering public social services across Europe.

Its aims are to:

  • identify and promote best practice in social services
  • recognise excellent work done in the field
  • encourage peers to work with and support each other in improving their practice
  • promote innovation in social services in Europe
  • engage the social services community at the awards ceremony

Entries are across five categories and are shortlisted by a selected panel of experts. The AIM programme has been shortlisted in the Innovation category.

About the Zero Project Awards

The Zero Project focuses on the rights of persons with disabilities globally. It is a platform where the most innovative and effective solutions to problems that persons with disabilities face, are shared. Its mission is to support the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and to work for a world without barriers.

The annual Zero Project Report presents the Policies and Practices that have been selected as the most innovative in their approach to that year’s theme. It also evaluates how the UN CRPD is being implemented around the world.

Each year, the Zero Project finds and shares innovative practices and policies that help improve the lives of person with disabilities through the Zero Project Awards. The chosen theme for the 2020 awards, for which AIM has been shortlisted, is Education. The awards are presented at the Zero Project’s annual conference and help bring global recognition for the chosen nominees.