21 May 2000, Dublin
Borderline was founded in 1997 to offer support for carers and families of persons with mild intellectual disabilities/mental handicap. Following a radio interview with Marie Murray on the Pat Kenny Show, two well-attended open-forum meetings were held, and a national committee was formed.
This year’s Borderline AGM held at the Red Cow Moran’s Hotel on 21 May 2000 had a small attendance of approximately 40, perhaps because the date coincided with National Pilgrimage Day and with the Cascarino-Staunton testimonial match. But there was a high level of engagement among everyone there, with no difficulty in filling the full quota of committee positions.
During the past year the executive committee held nine meetings, mainly to determine the focus of the organisation and the primary issues to be tackled. Chairperson Tom Kinirons Jr presented a document, ‘Borderline–Important issues for our members’, which outlined the problems associated with persons with mild mental handicaps and their carers. The audience agreed with the statements headlined in the document; one person waved the page: ‘This says it–this is my life.’ One paragraph described a person with mild intellectual disabilities as ‘having most if not all of the same needs as the rest of us in areas such as sexuality, socialisation, intellectual stimulation, freedom from boredom, a positive self-image, without having the wherewithal to either achieve the satisfaction of those needs or manage responsibly or appropriately in relation thereto’.
Many members highlighted employment problems; several concerns were voiced about how ‘attuned’ FÁS will be to the need for job-coaching and employer-education, as that organisation takes on responsibility for Level 2 and 3 training and job placement. Others spoke about young adults’ frustration and their consequent aggressive/challenging behaviours, and about vulnerability and criminal justice worries–and the acute lack of any appropriate advisory service/counselling in these areas. Persons with a mild disability are too often considered by state bodies only to have education and training needs, and services peter out rapidly for those over the age of 18. There is little or no consideration and planning for the quality of life and psychological health in adulthood.
Two speakers addressed the Borderline AGM: Joe Cahill, Assistant CEO of the Northern Area Health Board (ERHA), and barrister John Hanlon. Joe Cahill applauded the aims of Borderline, and agreed that persons with mild learning disabilities are often left out of the service equation. He did stress that many of their needs are not primarily health-related but are more likely to relate to other government departments–Education and Children, Enterprise and Employment, Social, Community and Family Affairs.
John Hanlon recounted his experiences in the High Court, representing plaintiffs seeking judicial review of service provision for their child/family member. He quoted from two judgements and gave his view that ‘the war is over for the under-18s’–the treaty having been signed in the O’Donoghue case. Although very few cases proceed to a full hearing (they are settled beforehand), too many cases are still having to be brought before the courts to vindicate individual rights to services. John Hanlon stated what seems obvious to so many of us: services need to be formulated to meet a wide range of individual needs here, rather than expending large sums in defending actions in the High Court and eventually having to meet individual needs, perhaps in a foreign setting.
Borderline’s plans for the coming year include gaining charity status, creating a website and raising awareness of employment needs, while continuing its interest in ‘dependent’ housing solutions. More information on Borderline is available from: Angela Carney, Honorary Secretary, 38 Celtic Park Avenue, Whitehall, Dublin 9 (tel: 01-831 6924).