AIM and Better Start


Access and Inclusion Model (AIM)

The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) provides a range of supports to enable children with a disability to meaningfully participate in the ECCE preschool programme ( Parents/carers/legal guardians and preschool providers make AIM applications jointly, through an on-line system.  

New Applications for AIM

In light of the Covid-19 restrictions, a number of adaptations to the AIM application process have been made to allow applications to be processed during this time. The application process will outline this and your pre-school provider will be able to talk you through these adaptations.

AIM provides a suite of universal and targeted supports across 7 levels.

Universal Supports (Levels 1 – 3 of the Access and Inclusion Model)
Universal supports are designed to promote and support an inclusive culture within pre-school settings by means of a variety of educational and capacity-building initiatives. Specifically:

  • A new Inclusion Charter has been developed for the early years sector. Service providers are invited to sign-up to this Charter by producing and publishing their own Inclusion Policy. To support this process, updated Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education have been produced and a national training programme on the Inclusion Charter and the Guidelines will be delivered by the City and County Childcare Committees.
  • A new higher education programme, “Leadership for Inclusion in the Early Years” (LINC), will commence in September 2016. The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth will fund up to 900 places per annum on this programme. Graduates from the programme will be able to take on a new leadership role of Inclusion Co-ordinator within their pre-school setting which will attract an increase of €2 per child per week in the rate of ECCE capitation payable to that setting.
  • Finally, a broad multi-annual programme of formal and informal training for pre-school staff in relation to disability and inclusion will be funded by The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and will be delivered by the City and County Childcare Committees, in collaboration with the HSE and other agencies.

Targeted Supports (Levels 4 – 7 of the Access and Inclusion Model)
The supports at levels 1 to 3, when appropriately developed, have been found internationally to be sufficient to support many children with disabilities. However, where a service provider, in partnership with a parent or guardian, considers that some further additional support may be necessary to meet the needs of a particular child, they can apply for one or more of the following targeted supports:

  • Expert advice, mentoring and support is available from a team of 50 specialists in early years care and education for children with disabilities. These experts, termed Early Years Specialists (Access and Inclusion), are based in the Better Start National Early Years Quality Development Service.
  • A scheme is available for the provision of specialised equipment, appliances and grants towards minor building alterations which are necessary to support a child’s participation in the ECCE programme.
  • Therapy services, which are critical to a child’s participation in the ECCE programme, are available through the model and will be provided by the HSE.
  • Finally, where the above supports are not sufficient to meet the needs of a child, service providers, in partnership with parents or guardians, can apply for additional capitation to fund extra support in the classroom or to enable the reduction of the staff to child ratio.

What is Better Start?

Better Start is a Quality Development initiative of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), collaborating with the Early Years Education Policy Unit of the Department of Education and Skills (DES) and works to establish a cohesive approach to quality across the Early Childhood Education and Care sector in Ireland. Better Start is hosted by Pobal on behalf of the Department of Children Equality Disability Integration and Youth.
There are three Strands of Better Start Support:

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