26-27 September 2000
Cneasta represents the interests of organisations engaged in training, development and employment services for people with disabilities. Part of its brief is to run an annual conference to inform its members of current and emerging trends and to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences.
This year’s Cneasta conference, held in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel, Buncrana, covered a wide range of topics and was well attended by delegates from all over the country. There was a particularly large representation from the north-west. The first afternoon provided an opportunity for people to be brought up to date with the latest developments in the disability sector. Angela Kerins, Chairperson of the NDA, Patricia Curtin, Director of Programme Development in FÁS, and Brendan Ingoldsby, Principal Officer, Department of Health and Children, outlined the current status of services and their plans for the future.
John Hume, MEP, was scheduled to speak on a partnership approach, but unfortunately he was unable to attend. However, at short notice, Seán Ó Longáin, Chairperson of Donegal VEC, delivered a very interesting and thought-provoking presentation on the subject.
Wednesday morning marked the launch of the new Cneasta strategic plan which aims to make Cneasta more relevant to its membership and to define its role more clearly.
Dr Nathan Kripz of Medi-able kept the delegates on the edge of their seats with his witty and often provocative views on training currently on offer to people with disabilities. He outlined the model of disability-friendly training delivered by Medi-able, -which he identifies as real training for real jobs in a real working environment, geared to the needs of the individual and not forced upon unwilling people. Although Dr Kripz may have raised a few professional hackles, he certainly gave his audience plenty to think about.
Parallel sessions provided an opportunity for delegates to attend two out of four presentations, depending on their interests. Margaret Webb of Eve Holdings Ltd updated her audience on the Task Force Report on the transfer of funding from the NRB to the Health Boards. Her report is due for publication in the near future. Peer Advocacy Training was covered by Martha McClelland of the Irish Advocacy Network. Peter Kearns and Yvonne Lynch of the Workhouse showed fascinating video footage of how people with disabilities have been depicted in the media. A presentation on the White Paper on Voluntary Activity was given by Edel Higgins.
The second afternoon session of the conference, chaired by Des Burke, former Manager of Horizon Support Structure, was devoted to feedback from the Horizon Thematic Groups. These groups had been set up to address priority issues concerning people with disabilities and employment. They were approved to carry out specific research, dissemination and promotion of mainstream activity among projects receiving EU Horizon funding under six thematic areas: supported employment, lifelong learning, enterprise development, arts and disability, assistive technology and social partnership. Reports from each of these groups are available and were the subject of their presentations at the conference.
The conference ended with a presentation to Mary Lucey, our out-going chairperson, who has worked tirelessly for Cneasta during her four years in office. Peter Canning, North-Western Health Board, has since been elected chairperson at the first meeting of the new Cneasta executive.