For Oral Answer on : 30/03/2023
Question Number(s): 76 Question Reference(s): 15761/23
Department: Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Further and Higher Education; Research; Innovation and Science the way his Department is providing assistance to young adults with disabilities, in particular those with intellectual disabilities, to travel to training centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Some 12,500 learners who took part in Further Education and Training (FET) courses in 2022 declared themselves as having a disability. Some of these learners took part in programmes specifically designed for people with a disability such as the Specialist Training Provision programme, while others participated across the broader FET provision programmes.
The provision of public transport services falls within the remit of the Department of Transport and I welcome the provision in Budget 2023 to continue the Young Adult Card and its expansion to 16, 17 and 18 year olds in third level education, so that they can also avail of half-price public transport fares.
Within the FET sector, a range of supports, including transport supports, are provided through the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) to support the participation of learners with a disability. For example, some providers of Specialist Training Provision will have their own transport, while others link into other local transport providers.
SOLAS manages the Fund for Students with Disabilities which provides funding to PLC colleges to assist them in offering supports, including transport supports, to eligible students with disabilities so that they can participate on an equal basis with their peers. Need assessments determine the supports provided to students, in accordance with the guidelines issued by SOLAS.
One of the national targets set out in the Strategic Performance Agreements in place between SOLAS and the ETBs for 2022 to 2024, is to widen participation of learners from priority cohorts, including people with a disability. SOLAS is reviewing its Fund for Students with Disabilities guidelines to see how it can be rolled out across all FET programmes and, building on its 2017 research into barriers to FET for vulnerable groups, SOLAS intends to commission further research and examine barriers to participation in FET, with particular reference to persons with a disability.