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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2408

Senator REYNOLDS —Is the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs aware that there has been a considerable time delay in implementing the Commonwealth School Commission's special education committee's recommendation on grants to provide funds to assist schools to develop mainstreaming programs to integrate disabled children into regular schools? Can the Minister investigate the procedures adopted to ensure that there is no further frustration for schools seeking vital continuity in their programs? In particular, will the Minister report on accusations that Queensland's funds allocated for this purpose may have been invested on the short term money market while the State and Federal authorities argued about certain aspects of the program?

Senator RYAN —I am aware that there have been delays in the approval and payment of integration and other special education grants to non-government schools in Queensland, primarily because the funding allocations to various non-government elements of the special education program have not been finalised by agreement between the Commonwealth Schools Commission and the Queensland Department of Education. Funds for integration activities in regular non-government schools and grants to non-government special schools are made available under the Schools Commission's special education recurrent grants program. In Queensland the majority of these funds are claimed by the State Department of Education, as it meets the full operating costs of non-government special schools. An amount of funds, however, is reserved to provide assistance with special education initiatives, including integration, by regular non-government schools. This amount requires agreement between the Queensland Education Department and the Schools Commission. It is this need for negotiation that has caused delay.

I expect that the approval and payment of grants will be finalised by the Schools Commission within four weeks. In addition, I am advised that the Queensland Department of Education and the Commission are planning to develop an agreed set of principles for the allocation of funds to the various non- government elements of the special education program so that delays will be avoided in future. I have no knowledge of the suggestion which Senator Reynolds made towards the end of her question that the money available for these programs has been invested by the Queensland Government on the short term money market. I will have to investigate that matter and inform Senator Reynolds accordingly.