by Stephen Kealy
Intellectual disability is a well-researched field of study, generating a considerable number of references in any Google search. What is always challenging is converting research to practice. There is also considerable work completed on the added value to the person with an intellectual disability moving from institutional settings to live in the community, as well as the importance of keeping housing solutions—as far as possible—individualised, to maximise the benefits for the person. Yet some services supported by the HSE have paid insufficient attention to what is known to work for people seeking a better life with all the added benefits for their health and wellbeing.
Recent years have seen the state pay out large sums of money in compensation for wrong decisions made by our parents and grandparents. But decisions still being made on behalf of people with an ID may mean that our children and grandchildren may also have to pay compensation costs in the future—for example, to people with an intellectual disability who have been moved from one setting to another where, although their physical care needs are met, their emotional wellbeing is neglected, with a consequent negative impact on their physical well being. Slow learning is perhaps something that goes well beyond intellectual disability.
Some of these issues are addressed in the following pages. What is not addressed is that many parents continue to identify concerns similar to those voiced over the last thirty years, with some parent groups questioning whether the provision is now worse. There is also an almost imperceptible movement from a service delivery model that was always free at the point of delivery, to a model where more costs are been borne by parents, extended families and the persons with an intellectual disability themselves.
Living in the community does not necessarily mean that appropriate health and wellbeing supports are in place for people with an intellectual disability, particularly the need to understand that they may become vulnerable at an earlier age than the able bodied population. There is also no guarantee that GP services are attuned to the needs of people with an intellectual disability.
Some of the best antidotes to poor physical and mental health are exercise, eating sensibly, meeting with friends, opportunities for relationships and to follow personal interests. Often these involve very little cost. Yet they can be difficult to deliver in any coherent and integrated way for people with an intellectual disability.
This issue of Frontline is the second last printed edition—the last one will be our winter issue at the end of December. From January 2015, Frontline will be a digital publication available on a revamped website with open access to the archived previous issues. Frontline has been published for 25 years; many people have worked hard on a voluntary basis to keep the magazine in circulation. On behalf of the present Editorial Board, I would like to thank everyone who has been associated with the magazine over the years, for their commitment, generosity and effort.
Printing costs have become prohibitive for a magazine like ours with a small subscribership. But, the primary reason for our decision to ‘go digital’ is to reach a much wider readership, with improved availability and accessibility.
The Frontline Editorial Board has been fortunate in securing a grant from the Department of Justice, Disability Section, to enable us to redesign the magazine as a digital publication. But the new Frontline will need new foot soldiers. The Board is seeking a commissioning editor, and a number of associate editors. Expressions of interest can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org