Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill: Health Issues

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 2nd March 2015.

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Photo of Dominic Bradley Dominic Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:15 pm, 2nd March 2015

T1. Mr D Bradley asked the Minister of Education what discussions he has had with the Health Minister about the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill, which he referred to earlier, given the fact that health issues can often impinge upon special educational needs. (AQT 2191/11-15)

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I have had no discussions with the current Health Minister, but I had significant discussions with his predecessor, simply because of the timescale within which the Bill was drawn up and prepared for delivery to the Executive. My officials are in regular engagement with health officials under the current Health Minister in relation to this matter as they were under the previous Minister. I have no doubt that, as the Bill progresses and as matters arise, the Health Minister and I will have engagements around those points.

Photo of Dominic Bradley Dominic Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party

Go raibh mile maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as a fhreagra. Too often in the past, parents and schools have said that there is a silo mentality in relation to health and education around these issues. Can the Minister assure the House that the Bill will contain provisions that will break down those silos?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Chomhalta as an cheist. I am satisfied that the Bill allows for a closer working relationship between my Department and the Health Department. Indeed, I believe that the silo mentality across the Executive has been broken down over the last number of years with a better working relationship among Ministers, although, sometimes, the public may not believe that. There is a better working relationship, which has been sponsored by the Civil Service in regards to cross-departmental working. I believe that the Bill presents us with an opportunity to enhance and increase that, but I would also put on record the significant amount of cross-departmental work that already takes place.