News & Events

Childcare for children with disabilities – AIM support scheme reopens

“Accessibility vital in radical new approach to childcare”

Statement by Minister Katherine Zappone



Friday 12th May 2017

Applications for supports for children with disabilities to enter the free pre-school programme in September are now being accepted, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone.

Announcing that the Access Inclusion Model programme (AIM) is now accepting new applications, Minister Zappone urged parents and pre-school providers to apply early to ensure supports can be put in place quickly.

The Minister says accessibility is a key strand of the radical new approach to childcare, which will also see More Affordable Childcare rolled out in September.

Under AIM, a suite of supports – universal and targeted – are available to ensure children with a disability can participate in, and benefit from free pre-school.

Speaking today, the Minister said:

“We are embarking on a radical new approach which will transform our childcare from being one of the most expensive in the world to one of the best.

Accessibility, together with affordability and quality, is at the very centre of our approach.

The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) has transformed young lives by ensuring that children with disabilities can fully participate in the free pre-school programme.

Since I launched AIM last June, it has provided targeted support to 2,113 children in almost 3,500 instances.

Today, I am urging parents and pre-school providers who wish to avail of AIM to make their applications now so that they can plan for enrolments in September and importantly plan for a smooth and supported transition to pre-school for children with a disability.

I am committed to working towards a more vibrant, inclusive and tolerant society which supports all children, equally, to realise their potential – AIM is critical to delivering on this commitment”.

For further information on AIM, please visit



The Access Inclusion Model (AIM)

The goal of AIM is to empower pre-school providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience, ensuring that every eligible child can fully participate in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme and reap the benefits of quality early years care and education.

AIM is a child-centred model, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the service provider.

Levels 1-3 provide universal support to create a culture of inclusion within pre-school settings, by providing training and information for pre-school providers and parents.

Level 1 works to foster an inclusive culture. In 2016, a new Inclusion Charter for the pre-school sector was published, alongside updated and strengthened Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education. Training on the guidelines is now being rolled out nationally.

Level 2 works to inform parents and pre-school providers about AIM. The website contains comprehensive information on AIM and on how to apply for the new schemes and supports. The website also contains the new Inclusion Charter and Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education, as well as a range of other resources.

Level 3 works to support a qualified and confident workforce. In September, a second intake of 1,000 staff from pre-school settings will be funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to undertake Leadership for Inclusion (LINC), a Level 6 Special Purpose Award. From September 2017, the first cohort of close to 900 programme graduates will perform a new leadership role of Inclusion Co-ordinator within their pre-school setting. This will attract an increase of €2 per child per week in the rate of ECCE capitation payable to that setting.

All targeted elements (Levels 4-7) of the Access and Inclusion Model are operational.

Level 4 provides expert early years educational advice and support. This service is available to pre-school providers and is based within the Better Start Early Years Specialist Service. To date, the team of 50 specialists (in early years care and education for children with disabilities) has completed 5,675 visits providing advice and guidance. To further support this work, 18 additional specialists will take up new posts in July.

Level 5 provides grants for equipment and minor alterations. 185 applications for equipment have been approved, as well as 25 applications for minor alterations grants.

Level 6 provides therapeutic intervention for children who need it: 47 applications have been referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the relevant therapeutic supports.

Level 7 provides additional assistance in the pre-school room and 1,193 applications have been approved to date. In line with emerging best practice to support the integration and independence of children with a disability, AIM does not fund Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). Rather, it provides financial support to the pre-school provider, which can be used either to reduce the adult to child ratio in the pre-school room or to buy in additional assistance to the pre-school room. Accordingly, Level 7 assistance is a shared resource for the pre-school setting.

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