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SNAs for schools, insurance costs and Ireland's space strategy discussed at Cabinet

All schools are to be notified of their Special Needs Assistants (SNA) allocations by next week.

The move will provide more certainty to schools, parents and SNAs themselves ahead of the new school term in September.

Education Minister Joe McHugh updated his Cabinet colleagues on the allocation of almost 16,000 SNAs to schools which will now be made before the end of May and also provided an update on a new pilot scheme.

Under the front-loaded allocation model, SNAs will be automatically provided to schools at the start of the academic year rather than waiting for an individual student’s disability diagnosis to be allocated hours.

A total of 75 schools in Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare will take part in the pilot and this allocation will be sourced from the 950 additional SNA posts provided for in Budget 2019.

A total of €4.75m in funding was announced for the model in the last Budget, which aims to provide support based on a profiling system for Special Education Teaching to be used to allocate resources. The Department hopes that under the new scheme schools won't have to wait for child assessments to receive SNA hours.

The Department of Education has promised that no school will be allocated less than they would have under the current scheme. An appeals mechanism will also be included to deal with exceptional cases in schools.

Separately Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan sought approval to establish a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee in a bid to tackle rising insurance costs.

Mr Flanagan will draft an amendment to the Judicial Council Bill 2017 to set up a committee of judges who will be tasked with drawing up guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury.

The group would compare damages that are awarded both in Ireland and other countries when deciding on appropriate pay-outs. The courts would then be required to have regard to the guidelines when assessing damages in a personal injuries action.

Meanwhile, Minister of State John Halligan sought approval to publish Ireland's first ever National Space Strategy for enterprise.

The number of companies engaged with the European Space Agency (ESA) has almost doubled in the past decade, from 35 in 2009 to 67 in 2018. The National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025 will aim to further develop and expand a sustainable space-active enterprise sector in Ireland within the evolving international market.

The Housing Minister also asked the Cabinet to exercise its Constitutional power to ask President Michael D Higgins to fast-track the passing of the Residential Tenancies Bill.

The Bill, which is currently progressing through the Oireachtas will provide stronger protections for tenants and will also further regulate short-term lettings such as Airbnb which the Government says are taking housing stock out of the rental market.

The new short-term letting provisions will come into effect from the beginning of July, with a four-week public information campaign being held in advance throughout the month of June.