Successful High School Program Expanded Teachers Celebrated

first_imgMore students will be better prepared for careers in Nova Scotia with the expansion of a successful high school program. Options and Opportunities, which gives students on-the-job experience while they are still in school, will be extended to Grade 11 and eight more schools this year. Education Minister Karen Casey made the announcement today, May 17, at an event for teachers and administrators in the Options and Opportunities (O2) program. “This program is the most significant change in our high schools in 30 years,” said Ms. Casey. “We know that most jobs require post-secondary education. The strength of this program is that it connects students to employers early on so they see how their schoolwork leads to a job in Nova Scotia.” The program is designed to better prepare students for the labour market and help them make more-informed career choices. It focuses on career development and matches students with qualified employers to give them opportunities to gain experience in a real workplace. Students also have a direct pathway to post-secondary education through the Nova Scotia Community College. The community college has established a framework to admit O2 graduates to its programs. This year, the O2 program was offered to almost 400 Grade 10 students in 27 schools across the province. In the 2007-08 provincial budget, the province announced it would invest an additional $1.5-million to expand the program to grade 11 in all 27 schools currently offering it. It will also expand to eight more schools in the province: Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School, Dartmouth High School, East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy, Glace Bay High School, Lockeport Regional High School, Millwood High School, North Colchester High School and West Kings District High School. According to teachers, students and parents, the program has been a tremendous success. “Teachers are telling us they’re seeing significant improvements in student grades, attendance and discipline,” said Peter Smith, a consultant at the Department of Education who visited O2 schools across the province. “Parents say their relationships with their children are better and students themselves have more self-esteem and self-confidence.” Samantha Hodgson, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student in a Halifax Regional Municipality high school, is one of those students. “I feel more motivated and interested in school,” said Ms. Hodgson. “My marks have gone way up, and I really like getting experience in, and out of, the classroom. I know I’ll have a lot of choices and options when I graduate.” The program has also been well received by the business community and its success relies on the support of employers. This year, more than 200 employers supported O2 students through work placements, and that number will grow with the expansion of the program. In June 2006, the department launched the Invest in Youth initiative to encourage employers to get involved. To date, more than 3,000 employers joined a database that schools can access to identify opportunities for students. Tim O’Regan, general manager of O’Regan’s South Shore, Toyota, Hyundai and Subaru, got involved in the O2 program this year. Mr. O’Regan hosted three students from three local schools for work placements. “We got involved in this program to educate youth in our community about the automotive technical trade and to introduce them to our business,” said Mr. O’Regan. “There are a lot of misconceptions about this trade and we want youth to know thatthis is a viable way to earn a good living in a good working environment. This will ultimately help us continue to run a successful business.” Ms. Hodgson and Mr. O’Regan shared their perspectives at an event for O2 teachers and administrators to showcase experiences and successes in the program. “All of the teachers and principals involved with the program should be congratulated,” said Ms. Casey. “They are helping to ensure that students who may otherwise have been lost in the system, are ready and able to seize the many opportunities Nova Scotia has to offer.”last_img read more

The number of people receiving a carers allowance has increased by 40

first_imgTHE NUMBER OF people in receipt of a carer’s allowance has increased from 23,000 in 2004 to close to 57,200 at the end of last month – an increase of 40%.Collectively, carers will receive €806 million in payments this year. It is estimated that there are 187,000 family carers in Ireland.Nearly 25,000 people are in receipt of a carer’s payment at “half rate” as they are also in receipt of another social welfare payment.For example, a lone parent who is caring on a full-time basis for an elderly relative can receive €219.80 in one-parent family payment and €102 per week in half-rate carer’s allowance.There are currently 3,500 carer’s allowance applications awaiting approval.Social Protection Minister Joan Burton informed the Dáil of the figures last week.She was responding to a parliamentary question posed by Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea, in which he asked her what she intends to do to help carers affected by the cut in the respite grant last year.€5 billionO’Dea said that for every euro the State spends on carers, it gets back about €5.“The value of the total caring done in this country is estimated to be between €4.5 billion and €5 billion,” he stated.Burton said that she did not know what changes the next budget would hold for carers.There are no commitments at this time in relation to any particular group in respect of the budget.She added that there was “a slight tone of irony” in O’Dea’s comments as he was a member of the government that “cut the weekly payment to carers by approximately €16.40 per week … that is €850-plus per annum”.O’Dea said Burton was “trying to avoid answering the question” and noted that she had overseen a weekly cut of €6.50 in the allowance.Burton noted: “The current payment of €1,375 per annum is more than twice the amount of €635 per annum paid in 2002 by the previous Government, of which Deputy O’Dea was a member, and is higher than it was at the height of the boom in 2006, when it was €1,200 per annum.”‘Hoodwinked’O’Dea remarked that Burton was “well aware that everybody who is in receipt of a carer’s allowance is automatically entitled to the respite care grant”.Thus, when the respite care grant is cut, that represents a cut in the core rate of social welfare. Regardless of how the Minister juggles it up, that is the reality.He went on to say that Burton had “successfully fooled”, “conned” and “hoodwinked” the public.The social protection minister said that recipients of the carer’s allowance also “qualify for free travel and, if they are living with the person they are caring for, the household benefits package”.She noted that payment of the annual non-means-tested respite care grant commenced recently, saying that more than 70,000 carers would receive a total of approximately €122 million this year.On Friday, O’Dea launched Fianna Fáil’s position paper on carers. The document proposed a series of recommendations, including a re-examination of the Household Benefits Packages; changes to the prescription charge and the re-introduction of a Mobility Allowance.Waiting timesThe average wait time for appealing a decision made by the social welfare related to respite care grants is just over 14 months, or 61.8 weeks. The average wait time in 2013 was 24.6 weeks.People Before Profit TD Joan Collins asked Burton if she is “satisfied with the processing times for current social welfare payments that require a medical assessment”.Collins stated:Almost everybody who comes to my office in regard to this problem has been waiting six, seven, eight or nine months or even longer for the claim to be dealt with. The complicated nature of the application is causing huge problems for people and for submitting their information. What does the Minister plan to do to address this?As of the end of April, the average wait times in weeks for the four main schemes involving a medical assessment were as follows:Disability Allowance: 11Carers Allowance: 12Invalidity Pension: 9Domiciliary Care: 10“These processing times are a significant improvement over previous processing times and the numbers of people awaiting a decision at the time when I came into office. The average number of weeks to decide on a new carer’s allowance application has decreased from approximately 26 weeks at that time to a current average of 12 weeks,” Burton noted.She added that a total of €3.4 billion was spent on illness, disability and caring schemes in 2013, including a total of €2.5 billion on the four schemes listed above.“There are currently approximately 3,500 carer’s allowance applications awaiting decision. The equivalent number in 2012 was 11,600,” Burton stated.Collins said that “several things would facilitate a quicker turnaround of claims, one of which would be simpler application forms”.Another would be if someone were to sit down with people and tell them exactly what was required from their doctor in terms of medical evidence. When a doctor writes to the panel and verifies that a person is disabled, very ill and that his or her condition will not improve, the panel should accept this, rather than refusing the application.Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh noted that in the past “up to 50% of the original decisions by social welfare deciding officers were overturned on appeal”.National Carers WeekOver 150 events took place last week to mark National Carers Week.On Monday, the Neurological Alliance of Ireland and Care Alliance Ireland published the results of a nationwide survey on carers.Of the 170 people questioned, 82% said they had been affected by cuts to home care packages over the past three years. Some 77% said they had been impacted by cuts to respite services and 70% by cuts to home help.Just over four in ten of the respondents had given up work to look after a person with a neurological condition.Over one fifth of carers who took part in the survey said they could not access any respite services.Read: Survey shows 4 in 5 carers badly impacted by cuts in recent yearsRead: At least 60% of domiciliary care allowance applications refusedlast_img read more