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Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency

Roll out and Administration of Programme

DESSA programmes included in the evaluation

It was agreed following discussion with DESSA that ten projects would be included in the evaluation. Each of these ten participating projects had, or still has, one Steps to Mainstreaming Participation Framework programme in operation.


Table 4 shows the list of Counties of Community Development and Family Resource Centre projects included in the evaluation and the proportion of persons with disabilities living in those counties.


Table 4 - Counties included in the evaluation and % level of disability, 2006

County % of persons with a
disability living in county and State
Clare 8.9
Donegal 10.2
Galway 8.6
Limerick 9.9
Mayo 9.8
Sligo 10.2
State 9.3

Source: Central Statistics Office (2006) Disability, Carers and Voluntary Activities, Dublin, Table 2A, p. 16


Geographical location of projects

Projects for review in this evaluation are located in various parts of the country, in Clare, Limerick City and County, Donegal, Galway City and County. Some areas have an above average proportion of people with disabilities in the area population. Tables 5-7 (below) show the numbers of persons declaring a disability by age in three project areas.

The total number of persons living in Abbeyfeale is 1,090 persons; the percentage of people with a disability living in the Abbeyfeale area is 13.6%, considerably greater than the national average of 9.3%.


Table 5 -  Number of persons with a disability in Abbeyfeale, Limerick categorised by age group, 2006

Age Number of persons with a disability
0 - 14 15
15 - 24 10
25 - 44 33
45 - 64 44
65+ 47
Total 149

Source: Central Statistics Office (2006) Small Area Population Statistics.


The percentage of persons with a disability of the total number of persons living in the Portumna area of Galway (1,377) is 8.8 %. This is slightly less than the national average of 9.3%.


Table 6 - Number of persons with a disability in Portumna, Galway categorised by age group, 2006

Age Number of persons with a disability
0 - 14 8
15 - 24 7
25 - 44 29
45 - 64 28
65+ 49
Total 121

Source: Central Statistics Office (2006) Small Area Population Statistics.


In Scarriff, the percentage of persons with a disability of the total number of people living in the area is 7.8%. This is again less than the national average of 9.3%.


Table 7 - Number of persons with a disability in Scarriff, Clare categorised by age group, 2006

Age Number of persons with a disability Number of persons living in Scarriff
0-14 86 2199
15 - 24 49 1093
25 - 44 121 2741
45 - 64 212 2413
65+ 285 1244
Total 753 9690

Source: Central Statistics Office (2006) Small Area Population Statistics.


Advertising and recruitment of participants

Various means of advertising the Steps to Mainstreaming Participation Framework were used by each of the projects. These included door-to-door, local radio and newspaper, posters, open days or use of the Parish newsletter. Door-to-door was not successful in urban areas where high numbers of houses are located, such as in Southill where one staff member estimated 1,500 houses in the catchment area. Participants in rural areas indicated that it might be more difficult for people with a disability in their areas to receive access to information. In such areas ‘word of mouth’ of the programme was successfully used.


Day Services in local areas were contacted, as well as organisations in the area, such as, the Irish Wheelchair Association. In some project areas, as many as two or three Day Services are in existence, some catering for specific disabilities.


A staff member of Our Lady of Lourdes CDP felt that radio worked best as a means of communication in the area – an ad was placed on the community diary slot. An advertisement was placed in the Disability Federation of Ireland newsletter, emails were sent, an ad was placed in the Limerick paper and posters were also used to recruit numbers. Door to door was not used, as resources, such as personnel, would be a problem.


It was felt that the way in which participants were recruited to the Programme had a huge bearing on how the programme was rolled out. In many projects, the type of disability affected the content preference of the programme. In one instance, the group consisted of only people without a disability, and two persons who had initially joined with a disability felt outnumbered and withdrew from the Programme. In other projects, if the programmes were advertised to Day Services these participants would have different preferences to those not attending a Day Service.


Southill FRC commented on the fear of enrolling, noting the Community apprehension of taking part in programme due to fear of losing entitlement to disability benefits and do not want to go over 19 hours a week in activities.


Access to persons with a disability in the area remains problematic for some projects in the Limerick area. An example was given of advertisement placed in the paper but a large number of people did not feel that it applied to them. Needs are not being met due to isolation. Some may even feel disillusioned from applying for services due to past experiences.


An example of differing experiences given for participation in the Programme was that – some participants received payment (top ups) while others did not. (DESSA meeting Limerick)


Communication is a big thing – to people that need the service – the household should know about it – it should describe what is going to be put on offer. It has to be the household because the household is involved – let them avail of the information…all through B’s life I have to physically go and check what projects are going on (Parent at Galway roundtable).


Several of the comments made in the evaluation raised issues which can be addressed. Open days for the Programme can explain what is on offer including benefit and allowance entitlements. Some projects in fact paid a ‘top up’ to those participating but who do not claim a DSFA benefit or allowance. Indeed any person not claiming a benefit or allowance should be accompanied to a CIC by the project to have their circumstances reviewed.


Duration of programmes

The Making Choices Programme was to be run for ten weeks and the Step Forward Group Development was to be run for six weeks. However, it was found that the programmes were run with variable timeframes departing from the Framework curriculum. Each of the Making Choices and Step Forward Programmes for evaluation lasted for different durations. For example, some were run for two or three hours per week for 10 weeks whereas; others were run for one day per week for five or six weeks. Another project ran the Making Choices Programme for four hours one day per week for four weeks.


Number of participants

The number of participants in each Steps original programme is outlined in Table 8.

Project Number of programme participants
who stayed
Raphoe FRC 10
West Limerick CDP 11
Hospital FRC
Southside Disability Awareness Group:
Southill FRC
Southill CDP
Our Lady of Lourdes CDP 18
Ballybane CDP 10
Na Calai CDP 10
Aonad FRC 9
East Clare CDP 10
Sligo Northside CDP* 23
Cosgallen CDP 10
Loughrea FRC 8
Tuam CDP graduates* 4

Source: Interviews and roundtable discussions with staff of projects for evaluation.
*Not part of the original evaluation


Programme participants

It was estimated that of the ten projects agreed for evaluation approximately 100 staff and service users had completed one stage of the project.7 Participants in the programmes ranged from various backgrounds such as having acquired a disability such as a visual impairment to people with intellectual disabilities, persons who recently had a stroke, physical disability, a participant on the autism spectrum and those with more than one difficulty or disability, such as Multiple Sclerosis and intellectual disability or sensory disability with a longstanding health condition. The age range of participants was from late teens through to those over 65.


Gender of participants

Overall, from meeting with staff and participants at roundtable discussions and follow up telephone conversations, the gender of programme participants was predominately female. In many instances, in groups of fewer than ten participants, only one or two men were part of the group.9 However, a number of staff stated that this might be due to the type of disability, their interest in the programme content such as drama, as well as their interest in Community Development activities.


Programme Staff

The staff responsible for organising the Steps programme in each of the projects varied and included Project Support Worker, Community Development Programme Co-ordinator, Development Worker and Project Worker. Recruitment of facilitators varied for each project. A common facilitator used by several projects was Peter Kearns who was also involved in the planning of the Steps to Mainstreaming Participation Framework.


Projects used both local and outside facilitators, sometimes depending on the choices of the participants. An additional factor to consider when hiring facilitators were extra costs, such as travel and accommodation expenses.


Technical Support to the programme was supplied by DESSA and funders of the programme: the Citizens Information Board and Department of Social and Family Affairs. Responsibility for the development and delivery of the overall programme lies with DESSA.


Concluding remarks

The Steps to Mainstreaming Participation Framework was implemented as a mainstreaming tool for people with disabilities. The projects in the evaluation showed considerable variations in the levels of disability reported, as compared with the national average. Reasons for this included the location of services for people with disabilities and in one instance; a factory was located in the area, which hired numerous people with a hearing disability.10 This may contribute to a clustering of people with disabilities in certain locations.


In recruiting participants, projects adopted an approach which suited the local community, whether they lived in an urban or rural area. Projects noted the fear of potential participants that the Programme would undermine their social welfare allowances. The majority of participants starting and completing a ‘step’ of the programme have been female. Reasons for this included the community development aspect of the programme as well as the course content. Those in support or promotion of the programme, such as DESSA, the Citizens Information Board and Department of Social and Family Affairs were positively portrayed in participant responses.