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DESSA

DESSA

Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency

A Snapshot of Projects

Snapshot 1: A Community Development Approach to Local Area Co-ordination  

 

'Community Inclusion, Capacity & Connection’ (the LAC project) was a social change project recognising that people with disabilities are  first and foremost members of their local communities, have rights, including the right to access and enjoy community life like all other community members and live life as they so choose.

It was about enabling and supporting people to move beyond having a presence in the community to actively participating in the community and developing leadership and collaborative roles. It was also concerned with  building the capacity of local community infrastructure.

 

The project has been hugely successful in creating real opportunities for social inclusion for individuals with disabilities and in building community capacity in County Leitrim.  50 individuals have been supported through this project to identify and realise their goals in life. Over 40 organisations have received disability equality training and more than 80 staff and volunteers within community and disability organisations have developed the capacity and competence to create inclusive opportunities for local disabled people.

 

The impact of this project on individual LAC participants and mainstream community structures is enormous. For example, 5 LAC participants (across disability) were elected as officers to a local user-led disability forum, Leitrim Disability Network. These are now participating in Leitrim Local Authority Public Participation Network.  4 LAC participants completed the St. Angela's NUIG Access & 3rd-level Foundation Course in Sligo. One LAC participant has become a youth leader with Carrick-on-Shannon Girl Guides.

 

Through the LAC project DESSA was able to facilitate a process of community engagement by educating the community & voluntary sector on disability policy, by linking service users to mainstream community services and by developing a planned process of engagement between community development organisations, disability service providers and the HSE. 

 

This project which was funded under Measure 5 Local Area Co-ordination of the Dormant Accounts Fund, was completed in June 2017.

 

 

Snapshot 2 Mainstreaming Participation - The Getting Included Network

 

DESSA’s development and facilitation of the Getting Included Network in south county Dublin is a key action in supporting disabled people’s access to mainstream community based activities and opportunities.

 

The Getting Included Network is a collaboration between community organisations and disability service providers to create opportunities for disabled people to be better connected to their communities and to access mainstream supports and services.

 

The Getting Included Network has three priority objectives:

  • To undertake appropriate and relevant training, education and awareness raising for Network members                                                                                                                                     
  • To facilitate community organisations and disability service providers sharing information and best practice                                                                                                                                                            
  • To be pro-active in influencing policy at local, regional and national levels                                                           

 

Key activities include training, policy briefings, showcasing community inclusion in action and developing joint projects.

 

Member organisations of the Getting Included Network include: Cheeverstown House Day Services, Peamount Health Care, NCBI, WALK and Stewarts Hospital, South County Dublin Partnership, Lucan Disability Action Group, Whitechurch Community & Youth Centre, the WEB Project, Ballyboden, Fettercairn Community & Youth Centre, Fettercairn Estar Management, Brookfield Community & Youth Centre, Ballyboden FRC, Greenhills & Walkinstown Network and South County Dublin Disability Interest Group.

 

In 2017 the Network met with the New Directions National Implementation Working Group to discuss their work and the role of community development in promoting inclusion and the effective implementation of New Directions.  

 

 

Snapshot 3: Developing and embedding inclusive policy and practice in Waterford Children and Young People’s Services Committee

 

Disabled children and young people are first and foremost children, with all the rights, needs and aspirations of all children and young people. Ensuring their rights are met requires providing services for them that are in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Government’s policy commitment to equality and social inclusion reflected in  Better Outcomes Brighter Futures: National Policy Framework for Children & Young People 2014 – 2020 (2014).

 

For the agencies in children’s services incorporating and developing inclusive practice can be challenging at many levels. The culture of individual organisations, capacity and competency of individual committee members and differing views on what constitutes inclusion can create barriers to effective inclusive policies and practices.

 

DESSA are supporting Waterford Children and Young People’s Services Committee to undertake an inclusion learning process to identify and address the key issues impacting on children and young people who are disabled or who have complex health needs and to adopt as best practice a strategic approach to social inclusion enabling children and young people the opportunities to live ordinary lives.

 

Key elements of this process include:

  • Developing a common understanding of inclusion
  • Reflecting on attitudes towards disability, assisting  critical reflection and the development of new thinking
  • Assessing and critically reviewing current practice and actions
  • Developing an Inclusion & Disability  Equality approach to the work of Waterford Children and Young People’s Services Committee
  • Developing an Inclusion and Disability Equality policy

 

Such a process will inform review of the current Waterford Children and Young People’s Plan 2016 – 2018, ensure good practice in the development of future plans and provide guidance and leadership to other Children’s Services Committees.