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Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency

Supporting Families Programme

Supporting families in the community, who experience disability, through advocacy, training, mentoring and awareness raising

The aim of this strategy is to develop a coherent approach to supporting families who experience disability facilitating them to have greater opportunities to participate in and contribute to the life of their communities.


Families are the core units of society and have care-giving responsibilities for their members with disabilities. The number of families who have members with disabilities living in the family home, and the families' needs, are increasing, yet the amount of support for the families is not increasing.


Social isolation is identified as a major issue experienced by parents. Parents identified a lack of access to relevant information and a lack of opportunity to share their experiences as adding to this isolation.  


Lack of access to community childcare and play opportunities and service’s for children was also highlighted by parents. Disabled children and their parents have a right to access childcare services and play and leisure activities within their own communities. Research has shown that participating in mainstream childcare, play and community settings benefits disabled children enormously. Disabled children, however, have limited experiences in accessing and participating in these settings. Many disabled children continue to attend specialist support services which can reinforce marginalisation from their community and lead to high levels of social isolation for parents.


Community organisations can play a pivotal role in developing locally based and integrated responses to the particular needs of families experiencing disability.


The strategy will entail the implementation of four discrete training programmes for parents of disabled children, community sector staff and volunteers and childcare staff:


  • Empowering Parents Programme
  • Empowering Parents Train the Trainer
  • Community Development & Advocacy
  • Childcare Inclusive Policy & Practice


It also entail’s supporting parents to self advocate through mentoring and supporting the establishment of networks and formal linkages between parents groups and local community and disability service providers.


This strategy is supported by the Department of Children & Youth Affairs and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.


Empowering Parents Programme

The DESSA Empowering Parents Programme supports parents to acquire the knowledge and skills to effectively advocate on behalf of their children.  DESSA is a national community deveopment organisation working to support the active and full participation of people with disabilities and their families in their local communities.


The Empowering Parents Programme is a 6 week programme (2.5 hours per week) for the parents of young children with disabilities. It entails teaching parent’s new ways of thinking about their child’s disability, which helps them to see new possibilities and ways of doing things. It informs parents of their children’s’ rights and how to achieve them. It also explains who could help them get what they need from the public services and their local community and through the process helped parents build their confidence. You will meet other parents who are in a similar situation to you, so there will be lots of opportunity for getting and givning real support.


The Empowering Parents Programme will:


  • Show you new ways of thinking about your child's disability, which will help you to see new possibilities and ways of doing things
  •  Tell you about your child's rights and how to achieve them
  •  Explain who can help you to get what you need from public services and your local community
  • Help you to build your confidence and keep your spirits up!
  • Meet other parents


Empowering Parents Train the Trainer

The aim of the Train the Trainer training programme is to develop a pool of qualified trainers who have the skills and knowledge to deliver the Empowering Parents Programme  throughout the country. 


Community Development & Advocacy

This is a six day accredited FETAC Level 6 training course to bring community development staff and volunteers an understanding of community development, disability equality and advocacy practice with disabled people.


Community Development workers have found it necessary to become advocates in working with those who experience exclusion within our society, but often have little knowledge or training in the Advocacy process.  New challenges face community workers including the ability to effectively lobby and influence policy matters, to speak on behalf of those most marginalized and to understand and promote Advocacy as a rights issue. During the six day training course participants will be able to:

  • Identify and communicate the medical and social models of disability
  • Apply the social model to Community Development Practice
  • Explore the role of Community Development in Disability Equality
  • Understand key concepts of Advocacy, including models of Advocacy
  • Understand the relationship between rights, empowerment and advocacy and advocacy and equality legislation
  • Identify the roles Citizens Information Services play in Advocacy and their links to community development organisations.


Childcare Inclusive Policy & Practice

The DESSA Childcare Inclusive Policy & Practice Training Workshops seek to support childcare providers to effectively ensure their childcare services are welcoming to all children, irrespective of ability.  It aims is to develop a coherent approach to supporting families who experience disability facilitating them to have greater opportunities to participate in and contribute to the life of their communities, course topics includes:

  • Disability Equality
  • Segregation
  • Integration and Inclusion
  • Exploring current policy
  • Planning for change.