This evaluation reports on the Steps to Mainstreaming Participation Framework. This evaluative review has been commissioned by DESSA and supported by the Citizens Information Board and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The evaluation was completed during September and November 2008. The evaluation concerns projects in support of people with disabilities and those working with or preparing to work with them for the first time and rolled out in a variety of local contexts in the Western, Mid-Western and North Western region in recent years. The Steps to Mainstreaming Participation Framework is based on the principle of activation of individuals and groups in specific geographic areas and the promotion of greater participation by both people with disabilities and CDP and FRC project staff, in promoting the awareness of, the actualisation of, the rights of people with disabilities.
In Autumn 2008 an independent evaluation was undertaken of the Steps to Mainstreaming Participation Framework which had been implemented in the West, Mid West and North Western regions of the country The Steps to Mainstreaming Participation Framework is a practical social inclusion initiative, supported by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Citizenship Information Board. The Programme was designed and developed by DESSA in conjunction with CIB and Social Welfare Western Region. The evaluation found that local Community Development projects and Family Resource Centres have had considerable success in reaching out to include and involve people with disabilities and their families in remote rural areas, villages and in disadvantaged city housing estates. With relatively small grants, the projects and centres had brought an estimated 100 persons into contact with mainstream services through specially adapted courses which accommodated their circumstances. While a small number went on to further education or a job, the majority of participants wanted more time and more exposure to opportunities outside their homes. Participants were living with a wide range of disabilities or long standing health conditions. Social and personal isolation was identified in the evaluation as a strong sentiment among participants with disabilities and support staff.
The authors acknowledge the helpful support and guidance in this evaluation offered by DESSA, DESSA board members and representatives of Citizens Information Board and Department of Social and Family Affairs. Peter Kearns and Eileen Carroll assisted the research by offering their personal experiences of how the Framework was implemented. The evaluation team are grateful for the administrative support offered by Peter Kearns in the fieldwork stages of the evaluation. The evaluation team are grateful to Raphoe Family Resource Centre for their participation as a case study in the evaluation and for the hospitality offered by staff and participants, when visiting the centre. The evaluation would not have been possible without the time and contributions made by individual staff and participants of Community Development Projects and Family Resource Centres who shared their views, offered information and offered suggestions. This direct input into the research enabled the evaluation team to offer a broad range of findings and considerations on the Steps to Mainstreaming Participation Framework, which otherwise would not have been possible.