DFI Welcomes Announcement of New Charities Regulatory Authority

On 17 January, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter TD, announced the upcoming establishment of a Charities Regulatory Authority. Mr Shatter confirmed that an interim chief executive of the new body is to be appointed in February, with the installation of a complete Authority coming before Easter. Funding for the establishment of the Regulator has been approved by the Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin TD.

This announcement is most welcome and long overdue. We at the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) have been calling for the appointment of a regulator and for better governance within charities for well over twenty years. We have consistently engaged with the Department and the sector on this issue, and were heavily involved with the development, promotion and adoption of the Governance Code – 15% of the organisations signed up to the Code are, in fact, our members.

DFI has, for the last ten years, been raising and improving governance practices among our member organisations, offering governance supports such as the Organisational Healthcheck and the PQASSO quality assurance system. We emphasise the importance of monitoring and evaluation to allow organisations to measure their value and effectiveness. The public needs to have confidence in the charities sector, and the new Regulator will take action in protecting the sector and those who support it from isolated incidents of misconduct.

The charity and disability sectors have played and will continue to play a pivotal role in the provision of vitally important services in all parts of this country; in putting the governance of the sector on a statutory footing, regulation will benefit all involved. We look forward to working with and supporting the Regulator in increasing transparency and trust in the disability sector in Ireland.

John Dolan, Chief Executive

DFI News and Events

DFI Urges Government To Act On Disability Following Mid-Term Review

The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) is seeking the appointment of a Senior Minister for Disability Inclusion following its Mid-Term Review of the Programme for Government, published on 27 December last.

DFI has conducted a critique of the promises, commitments and delivery of the Programme for Government, which is now halfway through its five-year term.  In light of its findings, the organisation is urging Government to act on three over-arching goals: the appointment of a Senior Minister with dedicated responsibility for disability inclusion; the prioritising of funding for disability services, in line with pre-election commitments; and the implementation of agreed measures, targets and timelines for disability.

Chief Executive of DFI, John Dolan explained, “We are asking Government to appoint a Senior Minister for Disability Inclusion to oversee the inclusion of people with disabilities in the reform of public services, and to target funding at healthcare and community-based services and supports which promote the quality of life for people with disabilities; the appointment of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs provides a precedent for this.  Implementing these measures will kick-start the overdue introduction of long-term plans for the improvement and sustainability of supports for people with disabilities”.

Since the onset of the recession in 2008, HSE funding for disability services has dropped by €159.1 million, representing a 9.4% reduction in spending at a time when need for these services is increasing.  Meanwhile, people in receipt of the Disability Allowance have endured cuts of almost 8% to the payment, resulting in a loss of over €847 to their annual income.  Substantial changes to essential services and supports, such as the adjustments to medical card eligibility, a €60 million loss to the Housing Adaption Grant since 2010, and the five-fold increase to prescription charges since 2010, have rendered further significant impacts on the everyday lives of people with disabilities.

While DFI recognises that these measures represent the cumulative effects of an on-going recession, since its appointment in 2011, this Government has not done enough to address the situation.  Mr Dolan stated, “the Programme for Government committed to ensuring that the quality of life of people with disabilities is enhanced and that allocated resources reach the people who need them.  However, Government has failed to translate its strategies into meaningful action.”

Mr Dolan concluded, “People with disabilities face a number of challenges in their ordinary, daily lives; mid-way through its Programme for Government, progress on our leaders’ commitment to improving their quality of life has been too slow.  Government needs to focus on integrating disability inclusion into public service reform and ultimately prove its ambition to accomplish full inclusion for people with disabilities”.

Read the DFI Mid-Term Review of the Programme for Government at:               http://disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=10792

DFI Strengthens Its European Work Through Network of Interest Seminar

Marian Harkin, member of the European Parliament (MEP) and Vice-President of its Disability Intergroup, attended a seminar hosted by the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) for its European Network of Interest on 20th January.

The event, ‘Getting Our European Act Together!”, was designed to establish and deepen European linkages in the disability sector and to develop a cohesive voice and strategy on Europe by exchanging information, experience and ideas. DFI’s European Network of Interest is a collection of people representing organisations who are interested in the European dimension to their work.

In his opening remarks, John Dolan, Chief Executive of DFI, highlighted the importance of recognizing the importance of the European Union (EU) as well as the challenges it poses, such as the lack of uniformity and the differences in services and supports across member states. Pointing to the National Disability Strategy (NDS), the European Disability Strategy and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), he noted that these documents not only interlink but represent a potential “trinity of support” for the disability movement.

Irene Bertana, Policy Officer with the European Association of Service Providers (EASPD), stood as guest speaker on the day, presenting on various aspects of EU policy, such as the EU2020 Strategy and the work progressing towards the EU Accessibility Act, as well as EU funding opportunities. The Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 introduces a new period of funding programmes such as Erasmus+, Employment and Social Innovation (EASI), Horizon 2020, Europe for Citizens 2014-2020, and the European Social Fund. She believes the disability sector needs to open up and move away from the idea of specialisation in terms of disabilities, as well as the provision of services and supports.

Ms Bertana later discussed the European Semester, a process of budgetary and policy coordination between the European Commission and member states. Although in place since 2010, the country’s exit from the Troika bailout now presents Ireland with further scope for participation and offers the disability movement the opportunity to place its perspective firmly on the agenda. The importance of the Semester was reinforced by Marian Harkin in an impromptu update of the latest European Parliament news and activities in relation to disability. Ms Harkin also gave some valuable advice on how to communicate the disability perspective and how to effectively capitalise on the structures already in place.

Members of the European Network of Independent Living (ENIL), the European Federation of Neurological Associations, the European Polio Union, Eurocarers and the European Movement in Ireland were also among those present at the event, joined by representatives from Inclusion Ireland, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland and Epilepsy Ireland, among others.

‘Getting Our European Act Together’ and the formation of this European Network Interest represent an attempt to bring people together to create a space to share and support one another in strengthening the disability agenda in Europe. Our current focus is the Local and European Election Campaign. DFI has produced a manifesto and circulated this to all Irish MEP’s. As the election draws nearer we will be intensifying the campaign. You can keep up to date via our website and there will be local events that you can link in with. Likewise, please let us know of any event that you or your organisation is planning.

For more information on DFI’s European Election campaign, please visit: http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=10807

Organisational Development

Registration Open On New PQASSO Quality Management Training Course

Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) has teamed with the Charities Evaluation Services (CES) to offer a new course aimed at organisations who are in the process of or thinking about applying for the PQASSO Quality Mark.

‘How To Train For PQASSO Mark 2’, taking place on 5-6 March 2014 in DFI offices, is primarily aimed at people who are involved in the implementation of PQASSO within their organisation and/or who lead the process of the PQASSO Quality mark assessment. PQASSO (Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations) is a quality management system designed for voluntary and community organisations. The course covers the detailed steps involved across the assessment process, identifying techniques, approaches and tools that enable an organisation to proceed through them smoothly.

Speaking on quality management, John Dolan, Chief Executive of DFI, stated that “voluntary disability organisations face a number of challenges in operating effectively within a recession, and DFI members are continuing to proactively embed quality within the work that they are doing. In this way, we can deliver more sustainable and beneficial outcomes for people with disabilities.”

Participants must bring their own copy of PQASSO to the training. Those who have previously attended the two-day course on ‘Implementing PQASSO’ or who have experience in leading the self-assessment process for their organisation will benefit from the course, as will existing PQASSO mentors who support other organisations with the Quality Mark.

The fee for the two-day course stands at €275 per place, with an early bird fee of €225 available if booking is confirmed and the fee received before Friday, 14 February 2014. A further discount may also apply if two or more people from the same organisation attend the course.

For registration details and terms and conditions please visit http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=10802 or contact Eleanor Uí Fhiannachta on eleanoruifhiananchta@disabilty-federation.ie or 01- 454 7879.

For more information on the PQASSO quality system, please visit: http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=222

Grievance Procedures in Employment Law: HR Update

The Disability Federation of Ireland, together with Adare Human Resource Management, operates a support structure which allows member organisations to exclusively avail of discounted Human Resource and Employment Law Support Services.

Adare Human Resource Management (HRM) provides these services to a large number of organisations within the community and voluntary sector. Organisations are supported by ensuring legal compliance in their practices, policies and procedures, and thus minimizing the risk of exposure to legal challenges.

These services include:

  • Contracts of Employment & Employee Handbooks containing policies & procedures - drafting / review / update
  • HR Helpdesk – provision of on-going access to Phone / Email HR Advice and Support
  • Representation at Workplace Relations Commission, Rights Commissioners, Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) and other external employment bodies
  • HR Consultancy Services – Recruitment / Investigations / Dispute Management

For more information on these services, please get in touch with your DFI Support Officer or contact Derek McKay at dmckay@adarehrm.ie or on 01-612 7092.

Employment Law: Grievance Procedures

A grievance may be defined as a formal expression of dissatisfaction with a term or condition of employment, the work environment or workplace relationship.  For example, a grievance may arise regarding the approval of annual leave, the temperature of a workplace, or the reliability or otherwise of colleagues in another department.  It is important to differentiate issues such as bullying, harassment and sexual harassment from other grievances, as these issues should be dealt with through separate procedures.

Whilst there is no legal requirement for an Organisation to have a grievance procedure in place for Employees, it is certainly good employee relations practice to put such a procedure in place. ‘Statutory Instrument No. 146 of 2000: Industrial Relations Act 1990 Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures (Declaration) Order 2000’ sets out guidance for Organisations, Employees and Employee representatives on the general principles which should be followed when dealing with a grievance or a disciplinary matter.

General principles which should be applied in every grievance procedure include that it must be rational and fair; the basis for any grievance must be clear; and an internal appeals mechanism must be in place. Grievance procedures should generally begin with an informal stage in which the Employee addresses the issue directly with their Manager before commencing the formal process. The principals of natural justice must be adhered to, meaning that details of the complaint must be put to the organisation; the organisation must be afforded an opportunity to respond; and the Employee should be afforded the opportunity to avail of representation, defined in the Code of Practice as a colleague or member of a registered Trade Union.

The Employee has a right to a fair and impartial determination of the issues concerned. While the procedure should generally be progressive, in certain situations, the Employee may choose to raise an issue at the later stages of the procedure without recourse to previous stages. Levels of responsibility for each stage of the procedure should be set out, with adequate records being kept in relation to grievance situations.

Where an Employee wishes to lodge a formal grievance, they should be required to do so in writing.  This will help to remove any confusion as to what the issue is, particularly as the process moves forward.  It will also help the Employee to put their grievance in context and assist them to decide whether to lodge it formally at all.  Having an effective grievance procedure in place can help an Organisation to learn from its Employees, and can also assist the Organisation to protect itself from claims of constructive dismissal.

It is demonstrated through case law that the failure to provide a grievance procedure or adherence to a grievance procedure can have adverse effects on an Organisation in third party forums, particularly in the area of constructive dismissal.

HR Management: Staff Opinion Surveys

A staff opinion survey is a research tool that Organisations utilise in order to engage with their Employees on important issues that affect the Organisation and the way it conducts its work. It provides an opportunity for the Organisation to gather information on areas such as what the Employee thinks of their job, team or work group, or the Organisation as a whole, and other specific issues, such as organisational culture or turnover issues. It can aid in understanding or anticipating Employee needs as they relate to the Organisation’s bigger picture, and can demonstrate that the Organisation is interested in and open to Employee feedback.

The most important function of a staff opinion survey is to provide a basis for an action plan to build on identified strengths and improve any deficiencies. One main benefit is that it gives Organisations access to information from their Employees that they would generally not have access to.  Other benefits include the identification of employee concerns, enabling follow-up action; effective measurement of mood and morale of employees; monitoring of progress in non-financial terms; evaluation of how Employee values align with the overall goals and priorities of the Organisation; and cost-effectiveness.

For further information on the HR and Employment Law Support Services provided by Adare Human Resource Management in conjunction with DFI, click on the link below: http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=50.

Health Matters
 

Department of Health Seeks Submissions on Advance Healthcare Directives

The Department of Health is seeking submissions on its Draft General Scheme for Advance Healthcare Directives, which will be incorporated into the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013.

The General Scheme sets out the legislative provisions for Advance Healthcare Directives, statements made by competent adults which lay out their wishes in relation to the type and extent of medical treatments they would or would not want to receive. These statements, sometimes referred to as “living wills”, are made in anticipation of future incapacity to make decisions; in order to complete a valid Advance Healthcare Directive, the individual making one must be an adult who has capacity.

In line with the principles of non-discrimination and equality before the law, as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the provisions present a single legislative framework which encompasses both general healthcare and mental healthcare.

Announcing the consultation, Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD, said: “Advance Healthcare Directives represent an important means by which people can exercise their autonomy, which is an integral component of a patient-focused model of healthcare”.

The Department is currently seeking the views and comments of individuals, institutions, agencies, organisations and groups on these provisions, with the closing date for submissions falling on Friday, 7 March 2014.

A discussion document on the legislative provisions is available at http://www.dohc.ie/consultations/open/AHDs/Discussion_Paper_AHDs.pdf?direct=1, while the Draft General Scheme for Advance Healthcare Directives can be found at http://www.dohc.ie/consultations/open/AHDs/Draft_General_Scheme_AHDs.pdf?direct=1.

Submissions, which should be kept under ten pages, can be submitted by email to advancedirectives@health.gov.ie, or by post to Bioethics Unit, Department of Health, Room 8.33, Hawkins House, Hawkins Street, Dublin 2.

For more information, please visit http://www.dohc.ie/consultations/open/AHDs/.

HIQA Responds To Questions On Provision of Disability Residential Services

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) sets out what a good quality, safe residential service for people with disabilities should be in its ‘National Standards for Residential Services for Children and Adults with Disabilities’.

These Standards apply to residential and residential respite services across disability sectors in Ireland, whether they are run by public, private or voluntary bodies or organisations. They give service providers a framework to develop person-centred care for all people with disabilities, and promote services that facilitate a good quality of life. They were developed following extensive consultation with people from all across the disability sector.

The Standards are outcome-based, focusing on what services are striving to achieve and what the experiences of the adults and children living there will be. Children and adults who live in residential settings or receive residential respite care should enjoy a good quality of life and live in a place that feels like their home, one that upholds their personal dignity and respects their privacy.

HIQA has developed a list of frequently asked questions for organisations who provide residential services on their website. This is available at http://www.hiqa.ie/system/files/FAQ-Disability-Residential-Services.pdf

The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) is participating in a number of groups around the standards.  If you want further information about the work that DFI is doing in this area, please contact Jacqueline Grogan at jacquelinegrogan@disability-federation.ie

Social Protection

Protecting Our Income: What Happens Now That The Telephone Allowance Is Abolished?

This is the first of a series of DFI discussion pieces on the issue of income protection for people with disabilities. Each month, we will highlight an issue around income, and outline the work that DFI engages in to push this agenda and protect the income of people with disabilities and their families.

Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) has raised the issue of the abolishment of the Telephone Allowance with the Department of Social Protection, following queries from member organisations who are concerned that people with disabilities may become more isolated and vulnerable if they cut off their landline in light of this cut.

Minister Joan Burton’s response to Parliamentary questions sums up the response we are getting. Minister Burton stated that “the overall concern of the Government in this and previous budgets has been to protect the primary weekly social welfare rates.  Maintaining the rate of the State pension and other core payments is critical in relation to protecting people from poverty.  To allow us to protect these core payments, we have had to look very carefully at other additional payments”.

She continued, “the cost of the telephone allowance scheme had risen each year, with the number of eligible customers also increasing significantly.  In 2007, there were some 316,000 people receiving the Telephone Allowance compared to almost 396,000 at the end of September this year, an increase of 25%.  Each year, almost 10,000 extra customers become eligible for the allowance because of the increased number of pension recipients”.[1]

Consistent Poverty

Much of the discussion around this cut in the media has focused on older people. However, while the consistent poverty rate for older people was 1.9% in 2011, it was 11.1% for people not at work due to illness or disability[2], and people with a disability are twice as likely to live below the poverty line as the rest of the population. We would argue that a €2.20 per week cut is significant for anyone living in consistent poverty, particularly when they cannot afford to go out and are reliant on the phone for contact. Family carers may also be bound more closely to the home and therefore rely on the landline.

Older people may also rely on the phone as a source of contact and for maintenance of their mental health if they are living on their own or in rural areas. DFI has argued that this cut puts older people who benefit from the Senior Alert Scheme at risk if they cannot afford to hold onto their landline. This scheme is designed as a community-based response to enable older people to live in their homes for longer, and is operated by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. DFI has been in contact with the Department and has been advised that “up to now, grants have only been provided for landline-based monitoring systems. Community groups can consider mobile solutions, which this Department will also grant aid.” Department  officials caution, however, that mobile solutions, which some companies have presented as options for the Senior Alert Scheme, are not a substitute for a phone and do not operate as a phone.

Incentive Schemes

DFI has been pursuing a third option to ensure that, even if the allowance is cut, people can continue to afford to hold onto their landline. We brought the issue to telecommunications companies, via the ComReg forum for People with Disabilities and Older People, to see what incentives phone operators can offer to low-income households. We reminded them of the sizable market they would be catering to if they subsumed the cost of the Telephone Allowance in customer deals, and were assured that providers would be looking closely at this potential market to see what they can offer previous beneficiaries of the telephone Allowance. Our advice is to shop around and see what deals they have come up with.

If there is an issue that you would like to raise, or find out more about, please contact Joan O’Donnell on 086 383 4586 or at joanodonnell@disability-federation.ie.

For more information on the cut to the Telephone Allowance and other income support changes, visit our Budget 2014 Special Newsletter at http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=10632

ICTU Launches New Training Options Initiative For People With Disabilities

The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, launched the new Training Options Initiative of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) on 27 January in the EDI Centre, Longford.

The initiative is the largest of thirteen Disability Activation Programmes (DACT)  funded by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) and the European Social Investment Fund.

DACT aims to increase the capacity and potential of people on disability or illness welfare payments to participate in the labour market. The Training Options Programme will offer 390 learners the opportunity to achieve three FETAC competent certificates, ten days of work placement and one-to-one mentoring, as well as the chance to apply to be a part-time mentor or Disability Champion in the ICTU Congress Centres network. 

The twelve-week programme is being delivered in the Border Midlands and the Western Region, with seventy-seven learners having completed the process to date, twenty of them training as mentors.

For more information on the project please go to http://www.ictu.ie/projects/training-options-disability-activation-project-dact/ or contact Fiona Elward on 01-8897704

Housing

Call for Proposals for Housing Projects Supporting People With Disabilities

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is seeking proposals for construction and/or acquisition projects under the Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS).

The Department is asking each Local Authority to issue a “Call for Proposals” to Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) operating within their functional area, with priority being given to smaller projects of up to ten units.

These bodies are being asked to put forward cost-effective and sustainable proposals to meet the needs of homeless persons, older people and people with a disability. The proposals should aim to ensure access to an appropriate range of community-based housing services and supports, particularly those addressing the needs of people with mental health and intellectual or physical/sensory disabilities.

Each Local Authority should identify the category and location of housing needs in its area, as established in the latest Housing Needs Assessment (HNA). The AHBs should reflect this need in their proposals, determining suitable properties or sites for the projects and completing a preliminary appraisal with sufficient information for assessment of the project.

Priority will also be afforded to small, infill-type developments, as well as to project which will be ready to commence in 2014. An independent valuation will be required to demonstrate that the proposal is cost-effective, sustainable and representative of value for money relative to market prices in the area.

The Authorities must return a short list of no more than five prioritised proposals to the Department by Friday, 28 March 2014, with each Authority setting out a timeframe for the submission of proposals from AHBs individually. The Department expects to announce details of which projects will receive funding early in Quarter 2, 2014.

For more information, a copy of the circular sent to the Local Authorities is available at http://www.icsh.ie/sites/default/files/attach/icsh-news/705/circular_housing_5-2014_cas_2014-2016.pdf.

Any queries in relation to the “Call for Proposals” should be directed to Teresa Cawley at teresa.cawley@environ.ie or on 096 24 364, or to Patrick Leonard at patrick.leonard@environ.ie or on 096 24 406.

The National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability 2011-2016 is available at http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=10437. The DFI submission to the Department of the Environment on implementing this strategy can be viewed at http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=10462.

News and General Information

BAI Research Examines Portrayal of People With Disabilities In Broadcasting

24% of Irish people are regularly or occasionally offended by the portrayal of people with disabilities in Irish television programming, according to research commissioned by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

The findings of the research on Irish attitudes to broadcasting content standards were revealed at a BAI ‘Conversation’ event held in Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin on 12 December last.  The research examined the public perception of the representation of people and groups in society, the treatment of content of a sexual or violent nature and the use of coarse language in Irish programming.

Although the research largely focused on television output, the findings also uncovered that 18% of people remain regularly or occasionally offended by the portrayal of people with disabilities in radio broadcasting. This placed people with disabilities, along with homosexual and transgender people, as those most perceived to be discriminated against in radio programming.

With regards to crude language, 44% of words falling into the disability category where deemed to be “always offensive” across both radio and television. Only those relating to race, ethnic origin or sexual orientation rated more highly. Bob Collins, Chairperson of the BAI, explained that “what may have been regarded as acceptable some years ago may now cause considerable offence.  In setting and implementing standards, the BAI and broadcasters must have due regard to changing attitudes among the viewing and listening public”.

The research forms part of the BAI’s ongoing review of its own Code of Programme Standards; the findings will be used to inform the redrafting of the Code, which is set to be submitted for public consultation in February 2014. The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) currently participates in a Committee on the portrayal and representation of people with disabilities established by the BAI and the National Disability Authority (NDA).

To see more findings of the research, visit http://www.bai.ie/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/20121211-BAI-Attitudes-To-Broadcasting-Research-Smock-Alley.ppt.

Mental Health Reform Urges Improvement of Mental Health Supports

Mental Health Reform is asking the Minister of State for Disability and Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch TD, to use her powers to improve access to mental health crisis supports.

The call marked the eighth anniversary of the Government’s mental health policy, ‘A Vision For Change’, on 24 January. The organisation pointed out that 18,173 admissions were made to Irish psychiatric units and hospitals in 2012.

‘A Vision for Change’ states that “Each citizen should have access to local,

specialised and comprehensive mental health service provision that is of the highest standard”.

Director of Mental Health Reform, Dr Shari McDaid, described how the report “calls for crisis intervention support to be available in each local area and for this support to be available 24/7. The policy also recommends 15 crisis houses across the country to offer brief respite where hospital admission is not appropriate, and that home-based treatment should be the main method of service delivery.”

Dr McDaid explained that some services, such as those in West Cork, Kildare and Cavan/Monaghan, have developed good systems which provide access to help and home-based treatments. “Responses like these can give people a sense of security and can help to reduce costly hospital admissions”, she noted.

“I urge Minister Lynch and the HSE to ensure that the recommendations on crisis supports are implemented across the country. Specific plans for these recommendations should be included in the HSE’s implementation plan for ‘A Vision For Change’, concluded Dr McDaid.

The DFI Guide to Government Policy on Disability is available at: http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=10193.

Irish Hospice Foundation Calls For Applicants To Development Grant Scheme

The Irish Hospice Foundation is calling for applicants to its ‘Development Activities in Hospice/Palliative Care in Ireland’ Grant Scheme.

Successful applications will encompass innovative service developments which improve access to palliative care supports, increase staff and service capacity, and enhance patient involvement and choice, while reflecting national policy and the challenges addressed in the organisation’s Strategic Plan.

This year, 70% of the grant is allocated towards developments addressing dementia and end-stage kidney disease.

Grant themes

Three different grant streams are available, offering different amounts and timelines to successful recipients. One grant of €50,000 and two of €25,000 will be awarded to programmes addressing the palliative care needs of people with dementia, while one fund of €60,000 will be awarded for a service development focusing on the palliative care needs of people with end-stage kidney disease.

Up to three grants reaching a total of €30,000 are available to initiatives aimed at improvement in both generalist and specialist palliative or end-of-life care.

Applications

Applications should be sent to Emer Connolly at emer.connolly@hospicefoundation.ie by 5pm on Friday, 14 February 2014. Health care professionals, service managers and education providers are welcome to apply, with at least one of the applicants coming from within Specialist Palliative Care. Applications for capital development or for research will not be accepted.

For more information on the grant scheme and application process, please visit  http://hospicefoundation.ie/what-we-do/supporting-voluntary-hospices/development-grants. Alternatively, contact Marie Lynch or Orla Keegan by phone on 01 679 3188. 

Registration Open For Joint North-South Conference On Rare Disease Day

Marking Rare Disease Day 2014, the Northern Ireland Rare Disease Partnership (NIDRP) is organising a Joint North-South Conference in Belfast on Friday, 28 February.

Speakers at the conference will include Christine Collins, Chair of the NIDRP; Avril Daly of EURODIS (Rare Diseases Europe); and Philip Watt, Chair of the Rare Diseases Task Force Ireland.

With the international theme for Rare Disease Day promoting the need to “Join Together for Better Care”, the event is hoped to increase cross-border co-operation in health issues.

The conference, the second of its kind, will be held between 10.30am and 3pm in Riddell Hall, Queen’s University, Belfast. Tickets are free, but registration is essential.

For more information and to register for the event, visit http://www.nirdp.org.uk/rare-disease-day-2014-booking-now-open, or contact the NIDRP at rdd2014@nirdp.org.uk.

Inclusion of People With Disabilities In Sport Promoted In New Courses

Disability Inclusion Training (DIT) has announced a programme of new courses taking place across the country throughout 2014.

DIT is a national standardised course providing training in the inclusion of people with disabilities for the sports, fitness, leisure, outdoor and physical education sectors. The six-hour course, consisting of both theory and practical modules, is intended to assist participants with ideas and skills in adapting sports to make them more accessible.

Coordinated by the CARA Adapted Physical (APA) Centre in conjunction with Coaching Ireland, Cerebral Palsy Sport Ireland, Special Olympics Ireland and The Football Association of Ireland, DIT is aimed at anyone over the age of sixteen who is interested in the inclusion of people with disabilities in sport and physical activity, and does not require any prerequisite knowledge.

On completion of the course all participants receive a Coaching Ireland/Cara APA Centre certificate and a resource pack containing warm-up, skills and games cards to assist in planning inclusive physical activity sessions.

To find out more, or to learn when the course is taking place near you, please visit http://www.caraapacentre.ie/training-education/disability-inclusion-training-2/ or contact Jana on 066 714 5647.

NCBI Co-Ordinating New Community Website For People With Disabilities

Digital Inclusion Champions In Europe (DICE), a project co-ordinated by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), is inviting visitors to its new peer-support community website aimed at to strengthening the digital literacy skills of people with disabilities.

The aim of this online community is to enhance and extend the training and support of people with disabilities available from Vocational and Educational Training (VET) centres, and to create a bridge from digital skills development to mainstream education and employment.

The DICE online community allows members to share experience, knowledge and skills, helping students to sustain their skills development both between VET sessions and following VET course completion. As well as students and people with disabilities, VET trainers, mainstream educators, employers and disability organisations are also invited to collaborate on the project.

DICE, involving five partners across four countries, is a Leonardo da Vinci Life-Long Learning funded project, promoted and sustained by Digital Inclusion Champions. The project is seeking participation and feedback through an anonymous online questionnaire. To find out more or to get involved, please visit http://dice-project.eu/partners.

For more information, please contact Dr. Mark Magennis at mark.magennis@ncbi.ie or Dr. Esther Murphy at esther.murphy@ncbi.ie.

Clan Beo Announce Seminar On Inclusion In Mainstream Schools

Clan Beo, an organisation working with people and families with additional support needs, is hosting a seminar on inclusion in mainstream education and community groups.

‘What Matters Most In The Mainstream’ outlines practical approaches to inclusion in mainstream schools and youth community groups, using the ‘Keys To Inclusion’ approach developed by Inclusive Solutions.

Derek Wilson and Colin Newton, co-founders and directors of Inclusive Solutions, will lead the event, drawing on their experience in educational psychology and teaching. Their work pioneered the use of practical peer support networks led by teachers and resource assistants in Britain and Europe.

The seminar will benefit primary and secondary school principals, teachers, resource teaching staff and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), as well as Community Youth Resource Workers, disability services providers and family network groups.

The event will be held on Saturday, 1 March in the newly-opened Westport Quay Community Centre in County Mayo. Tickets cost €20, with registration now open on http://www.iregister.ie/clanbeo.

For more information, please contact connect@clanbeo.org, or call 086 6036900.

Nursing Conference Set To Address Care Of The Older Person

The Minister of State for Disability, Kathleen Lynch TD, is set to address the ‘Care of the Older Person’ nursing conference to be held in St James’s Hospital on Monday, 3 March.

Professor Davis Coakley, Professor of Medical Gerontology at Trinity College Dublin, is the keynote speaker at the event, aimed at promoting healthy ageing and optimum levels of

Independence for older people.

Members of key teams in the hospital, including the Centre for Learning and Development, Stroke Services, the Falls and Blackout Unit and the Pharmacy Department, will focus on various aspects of the provision of quality services.

Tikcets for the event, running from 9am-4pm, cost €20, with registration now open at http://www.eventbrite.ie/e/care-of-the-older-person-nursing-conference-tickets-10293051795.

For more information, please contact Anna Ayton on 416 2266 or at aayton@stjames.ie

Features and Opinions

Escaping the Materialistic Malaise 

Maeve Halpin is a practising counsellor and Social and Organisational Psychologist, with many years’ experience in the Community and Voluntary sector, latterly as Chair of the Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups. Here, she discusses the importance of letting go of materialism and viewing our lives with compassion.

In 1911, in “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”, the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky wrote, “the nightmare of materialism, which has turned the life of the universe into a useless, evil game, is not yet past; it holds the awakening soul in its grasp”.

Materialism holds that physical matter is the only reality, leading to a consumerist value system that is preoccupied with material possessions and the social image they project. With the decline of both socialism and organised religion, 21st century capitalism is unchallenged in its promotion of wealth accumulation and the profit motive as the defining principles of life. Far from waning, as Kandinsky optimistically predicted one hundred years ago, the "useless, evil game" has intensified.

Psychological Consequences

The materialistic assumption - that our worth is equal to our status, possessions and wealth - has seeped into the cultural psyche like a dye. We do not object to being called “consumers”, as if this encapsulated our essential identity. The existence of an inner life that can be neither fed nor depleted by material possessions is airbrushed out of corporate-driven culture. Instead, we are inculcated with superficial values that divide us from ourselves, feeding insecurity and promoting avarice. Greed is a subtle and insidious energy that silently and surreptitiously colonises the soul. It can lead ordinary people to do extraordinary things, such as professional people on vast salaries cynically augmenting their pay with hard-won charitable donations and inflated medical insurance claims. Materialism generates countless commercials, promotions and special offers that promise fulfilment and happiness, but in reality deliver alienation, envy and a restive sense of dissatisfaction.

Understanding the Brain

Neuroscientfic research offers revealing insights into the pernicious nature of consumerism. Three separate emotion regulation systems have been identified in the brain: the threat and protection system; the drive, resource-seeking and excitement system; and the contentment, soothing and safeness system. The threat and protection system alerts us to danger and impels us to act to save ourselves, like jumping out of the path of an oncoming car. The drive and resource-seeking system gives us the motivation to seek out what we need and want – food, sex, excitement, pleasure of all kinds. The soothing and contentment centre appeared later in evolutionary terms, emerging with the development of attachment, bonding and caring behaviours in mammals. This part of our brain is stimulated when we are not under threat and not seeking resources: we feel safe and content, especially in the company of benign others.

In modern culture, the threat system is over-stimulated by unremitting negative media news, creating constant subliminal anxiety, while the resource-seeking system is over-stimulated by interminable marketing and advertising. Both systems have been co-opted to breed a low-level stress that drives us to endlessly consume, in a paradoxical and futile effort to ameliorate that very stress. The facile distraction and spurious gratification of retail therapy only serve to deepen the void it purports to fill.

Countering Consumerism

Popular culture fails to stimulate the balancing third system, the soothing and contentment system. In an attempt to address this insistent human need, there has been a recent focus on compassion as a therapeutic intervention. Paul Gilbert's work on Compassion Focussed Therapy and Kristin Neff's on Self-compassion aim to provide people with the skills of self-soothing, so essential in a competitive, demanding and judgemental world. Long recognised by contemplative Eastern traditions as the foundation of wisdom, insight and peace of mind, compassion has been demonstrated to decrease stress, alleviate anxiety and depression and increase health and longevity.

Viewing our lives with compassion allows us to accept ourselves, others and our situation as they are, without criticism or comparison. With practice, this can grow from a fulfilling emotional experience to become a powerful and dynamic state of consciousness. Kandinsky saw cultivation of the inner life as the “tiny star in a vast gulf of darkness”. Learning to appreciate what we have, to live in the moment and to foster compassion can restore meaning and depth in a world of superficiality, cynicism and corruption.

 © Maeve Halpin Jan 2014

In conjunction with Maeve, the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) has launched an External Supervision and Support Service for staff and Boards of DFI member groups.  More information is available at http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=215.

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The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) represents the interests and the expectations of people with disabilities to be fully included in Irish society.  It comprises organisations that represent and support people with disabilities and disabling conditions.

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[1] Minister for Social Protection (Joan Burton T.D.)  Tuesday, 5th November, 2013 PQ Question numbers 421, 499, 504 & 519

[2] Central Statistics Office (CSO), (2013), Survey on Income and Living Conditions, http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/releasespublications/documents/silc/2011/silc_2011.pdf

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