ItemChildlinks Issue 3: School Age Programmes(Barnardos, 2006) BarnardosThis edition of Childlinks is devoted to the theme of School Age Programmes. For many years Barnardos has provided out-of-school activities as part of an integrated model of community-based family support projects. Recently, as part of our advocacy work. on educational disadvantage, we recommended the introduction of comprehensive out-of-school activities for all children, particularly those who are disadvantaged. In a series of articles, this edition of Childlinks aims to examine the topic from both Irish and international experience. Dr Paul Downes writes on behalf of QDOSS, which is calling for a national strategy on out-of-school services ~ a strategy that is sensitive to the needs of local contexts. It is interesting to learn about the United States experience of out-of-school time (OST) programmes. According to Bouffard, Little and Weiss, the debate has moved beyond the question of whether Out-of-School Time programmes matter to questions about why, how and for whom they matter: Stakeholders now acknowledge that youth need access to not just any programmes, but to well-designed, high-quality programmes. Mary Maloney of Limerick City Childcare Committee gives an informative overview of the development of school-age childcare in Ireland and, in particular an account of the innovative work carried out by Limerick City Childcare Committee in this area. Two evaluations of After School work are included which provide insights into the topic from the perspectives of children, young people, parents, staff and teachers. Finally, there is an account of the development of a new Fetac award in School Age Childcare, which is being coordinated by a collaboration of childcare and training agencies. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Child Protection(Barnardos, 2006) BarnardosThe theme of this issue of Childlinks is Child Protection. As I write this editorial, the Government has announced the Childcare (pre-school services) regulations 2006. Barnardos welcomes the inclusion of requirements that all staff, students and volunteers in the service will be Garda vetted. In order for this to be implemented from January 2007, additional resources will need to be made available to the Garda Central Vetting Unit to enable speedy processing of applications. Another significant development has been the recent report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which recommended that the constitution be changed to more fully protect children in Ireland. Barnardos believes that it is important that both the rights of children and families are respected in the constitution and is totally committed to securing an express commitment to children’s rights in the constitution. Barnardos also welcomes the UN Committee recommendations that the State should ensure that social work services are provided to families and children at risk on a 24/7 basis and that the state should develop a comprehensive child abuse prevention strategy, including in particular putting the Children’s First Guidelines on a statutory basis. Child Protection is a complex subject and is a key issue for early years’ services, and for parents. As Dr Helen Buckley concludes in her article, it is the managed combination of diverse skills, resources and expertise that offers the best possibilities for children whose needs are not being otherwise met. Good professional practice in early years' settings is the most effective means of keeping children safe from abuse. This edition of Childlinks explores many of these issues from the academic, policy and practitioner perspectives. Child Protection is everybody's business. ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Children & Special Needs(Barnardos, 2006) BarnardosChildren and special needs is the theme for this issue of ChildLinks. The overwhelming message which comes through the various voices of policy makers, practitioners, parents and people with a disability is that in the important areas of early intervention and pre-school provision there are major difficulties and inadequacies for children. with special needs, In the article titled “Inclusive Education for Children with Special Educational Needs”, Mary Meaney sets out the National Disability Authority perspective on the measures that have been taken since the enactment of the Special Educational Needs Act, 2004. She observes that one of the areas of intervention which has received least attention is that of pre-school provision. An example of an individual case of a Barnardos pre-school in working with a hearing impaired child is provided ‘in “Helen's Voice”. This article provides a really interesting account of how a child can be integrated into a pre-school and transfer to a primary school, with appropriate support and close collaboration by the pre-school service, the child's parents, the Department of Education, the Public Health Nurse and the primary school. Parents’ isolation, long waiting lists for assessment and children not receiving the early interventions that they need are reported in “Accessible Childcare for All”. In addition, lack of access to information on grants, financial pressures, the costs of transport, lack of access to counselling and to respite facilities were cited as barriers experienced by parents of children with special needs. An initiative which aims to develop a model of good practice for the inclusion of disabled children in childcare settings, is set out in an article provided by the Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency. In “Being 17” Caroline Casey gives a funny and moving account of growing up and discovering that she had a visual impairment. Her philosophy is best summed up in her parting line ”...the only limitations we have are those we put on ourselves”. In the final article Fergus Finlay writes of his personal account as the parent of a child born with an intellectual disability, It sounds like every service she ever got had to be fought for. What impact will the Disability Act make which gives people with disabilities the right to an assessment, enquiry, appeal, etc but not a right to services? How different will it be for children born with a disability in 2006, who haves the benefit of the Disability Act and the Disability Strategy? The National Disability Authority and the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education need to exercise leadership to ensure major development and expansion of early years care and education for children with special needs.