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AIM & Higher Capitation Payment Delays

December 3, 2019

Early Childhood Ireland is continuing to investigate ongoing difficulties and delays experienced by our members with Pobal, and specifically the processing of payments and securing of approval for Higher Capitation and AIM. We were assisted by two TDs in submitting questions to the Minister seeking an explanation.

 

Higher Capitation

Brendan Smith TD (Fianna Fáil, Cavan-Monaghan) submitted this question on our behalf regarding the very frustrating delays with higher capitation. The Minister’s response denies an issue with the platform. This is contrary to what our members have described and is something we have raised with Pobal. The second point is more significant however:

“This year, due to data protection limitations, service providers were required to submit all qualifications as part of … Higher Capitation applications, regardless of whether they had been approved in previous years. This requirement had the effect of adding time to the appraisal process as additional checks needed to be performed to ensure that all submitted qualifications were DCYA-approved courses. Previously, DCYA had administered the Higher Capitation appraisal process, but this change was necessary when the process transitioned to Pobal.”

The Minister seems to suggest that the shift in responsibility from the DCYA to Pobal may have led to data transfer issues. In light of the GDPR, this may be understandable, but the transfer of responsibility took place before the 2018/19 programme year. That this issue might crop up again should have been anticipated and planned for by both parties. There is no excuse for the shocking delays providers have faced in making these applications.

A further issue raised by our members is that courses previously accepted by the DCYA as qualifying for Higher Capitation are now being repeatedly queried by Pobal. Pobal has in some cases refused to accept the internal college code for certain courses and has returned the application, indicating that the course in question was not on the approved list. It transpired that the provider referenced the internal college course code on the application, but Pobal’s system listed the CAO course code. This is an example of a simple issue that caused unnecessary delays and concern for providers. We continue to bring these glitches to the attention of Pobal.

 

AIM Payments

 

Róisín Shortall TD (Social Democrats Party Spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs, Dublin North-West) submitted questions on our behalf in relation to delays with AIM payments. The number of AIM level 7 applications has grown steadily since it was introduced in 2016 –

 

Programme Call

Total applications received

No. of   applications made before programme year commenced

Programme start   date

AIM Level 7 2016

1,552

380*

29/08/2016

AIM Level 7 2017

3,574

1,480*

28/08/2017

AIM Level 7 2018

4,851

2,791*

27/08/2018

AIM Level 7 2019

4,986

3,601*

26/08/2019

 

The number of AIM level 7 applications approved for full programme year funding without the need for a setting visit is notable. The Minister’s response notes that:

Within the current programme year (2019/2020) there have been 32 of these cases.”

The near-impossibility to have a funded AIM worker on site for the full programme year is a critical issue. The Minister states that “[F]rom application to decision, it takes on average 49 days to process an AIM application.” This would be less problematic if payments to settings were backdated. In this regard, the Minister writes:

With regard to the back-dating of AIM funding for an additional staff member, it should be noted that this type of support is only one of a range of supports provided under AIM. Where an application for AIM support is submitted, an Early Years Specialist determines the most appropriate type of support, depending on the needs of the child in the context of the early learning and care setting. The most appropriate support may not be an additional staff member. It would therefore not be appropriate for an additional staff member to be recruited until funding for this purpose is approved.“

While this response may make sense from the perspective of the Department and Pobal, providers will understand that this is not how services operate in reality. The child with additional needs is the one losing out as overstretched services are effectively told to subsidise money owed to them by the State.

We continue to advocate with Pobal and the DCYA on behalf of our members. However, increasingly, it seems the relationship between the two is not fit for purpose. If available funds do not flow to members in a timely manner, serious questions need to be asked about administration and resources.

 

 

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