Homesharing Schemes – Muiríosa Foundation

Bernie Fay introduces two well-established respite and support programmes which continue to benefit people with disabilities and their families.

  • Homesharing is an idea whereby people in services go and spend the night with a family in the community.
  • It has a great effect on everyone involved.
  • Services providing this have sprung up around Ireland.

The Muiríosa Foundation provides both respite and long-term support though the Share a Break and Room to Share schemes.

The Share a Break scheme has been developing over the past 30 years.  It provides respite in a family setting on an on-going basis to children and adults, the range of intellectual disability being from mild to severe.  The overarching aim of Homesharing is that the person placed feels part of the Host Family.  The processes involved in these schemes should have this as the ultimate aim.

This service allows people to have an individualised form of respite.  The scheme continues to expand each year.  This scheme is administered by the Muiríosa Foundation and funded by the HSE.  The Muiríosa Foundation administers the largest scheme in Ireland:

  • The counties involved are Westmeath, Longford, Laois, Offaly and south Kildare;
  • In 2015, 138 children availed of 5,739 days of Share a Break with 138 hosts;
  • A total of 135 adults availed of 6,682 days of respite under the scheme;
  • There is a total of 218 host families involved in the scheme.

The testimony below illustrates the important role this scheme plays in the lives of people with an intellectual disability and their families.

Catherine Keane (mother of Aidan (aged 10)): “Looking after my son is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding.  He requires a high level of supervision and it is difficult to maintain this on a daily basis.  It is very tiring, especially when you have other children whose needs also need to be met.

I have no family support network to help with his care.  I have come to depend and rely on Share a Break in order to help me maintain the level of care he requires.  Our life is structured around our son.  We have to work around him and his needs.  My other children also have to work around him, in terms of where he can go, what activities he can participate in etc.

Share a Break for me is a break. It is the only time aside from school when my son is away from home.  I do not have to worry.  I know he is safe and happy.  It gives me a day of freedom and a break from routine.  In his absence, the house is more peaceful.  It is even a break from the noise.  I have used this time to do even simple things such as go for a walk, sleep, go into town and walk around the shops with my daughter or go for lunch.  This is time when you know you can plan something, have a rest or just spend time with your other children.

We benefit as a family also.  My daughter can choose a programme on TV.  She recently started ballet.  This would not be possible without Share a Break.  Share a Break gives us the opportunity to experience a little normality – to do things that others take for granted.  I am very thankful for this.  It is invaluable to me and I do not know how I would manage without it”.

Increasingly, families are opting for family-based short breaks rather than seeking residential respite.  However, if some people prefer the latter service, it is important that this remains an option for them.

The Room to Share scheme has been in operation since 1993 and provides long term, permanent care in a host family setting to people aged 18 and over.

Those currently availing of the scheme live in Counties Longford, Westmeath, Laois, Offaly and Kildare.  The range of disability of those who avail of the scheme is from mild to severe.

What is distinctive about the Room to Share scheme is that people live with their host families on a full time, permanent basis.

In 2015, 22 adults lived permanently with families under this scheme.  These people feel part of the host family and this is a mutual feeling.   The testimonial below illustrates the way in which one’s quality of life can be enhanced by this scheme.

Thomas is a 63 year old man who enjoys the outdoor life and is particularly fond of working with small animals and doing gardening.  Six years ago, due to challenges pertaining to his family, Thomas ended up living in a large residential centre.  Those who were living there had needs which were greater than those being experienced by Thomas.  He became depressed and withdrawn.  It was agreed that his quality of life was being compromised by living there. 

Thomas started going for weekends to a respite homesharing family and very much enjoyed this.

His mood changed and it was decided that he would go to live on a full-time basis with this family.  He lives happily with his new family and enjoys time spent with their dogs and loves the work in their extensive gardens.  Thomas enjoys going to football matches with the family and likes the peace and tranquillity of the countryside.  Thomas also attends a day service and likes the time he spends there interacting with friends.

Equity and Inclusion:

The principles of equity and inclusion are realised in Homesharing.  Studies undertaken on traditional respite in comparison to Homesharing models indicate high levels of satisfaction with the latter scheme (Merriman et al (2007), Murphy, T (2010).

It is hoped that this can be expanded further in the future.

 

References:

Merriman, B. and Canavan, J (2007)

“Towards Best Practice in the Provision of Respite Services for People with Intellectual Disability and Autism”, Galway Child and Family Research Centre UCG

Murphy, T (2010) “Room for One More? – Contract Families Pilot Scheme ’07 – ‘09” Brothers of Charity Services, Galway and Ability West, Galway.

Author Bio

Bernie Fay is Head Social Worker with the Muiríosa Foundation.  She has been working on the Homesharing Projects since 1983.

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