Imagining a Better Life

by Stephen Kealy

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Stephen Kealy

The cover of this issue features Cillian having fun—and that is a large component of a good life.

The summer paralympians reminded us what can be achieved in spite of what appear to be significant obstacles—achievements that reflected their interest, determination, motivation and desire to succeed—a real demonstration of the art of the possible.

Celebrating change, achievement and movement is captured by articles in this issue, particularly those that follow the movement of people from a stark Victorian psychiatric hospital to live in small more personalised settings in the community.

There is, thankfully, an emerging understanding of the trauma people with an intellectual disability suffered following their wrench from their family home as young children and adults, to be placed in huge settings which often lacked the capacity for tenderness, closeness, and a close personal experience, regardless of how well motivated their carers may have been.  Noise – confusion – disagreements – herding, all were raw experiences with no opportunity for many to receive an unconditional helping hand. It is to the great credit of staff  of the HSE that their congregated settings are now closed. This issue looks at the journey of some of the people from one of those settings—Alvernia House. It should be no surprise that anecdotal feedback suggests that people are happier, less ‘challenging’ and more at peace. That is not to say that there are no challenges in trying to have in place the best personal fit. The biggest challenge of all may be the  inability of able-bodied people to imagine that it is possible for these new neighbours to live a better life.

Often it is difficult to receive copy for Frontline, but for this issue there were many people who wanted to share the achievements of people they know or to whom they are close.

Joe Wolfe completes his series on Standards. While the draft standards are linked to congregated settings, it would be imprudent for service providers not to apply them also to community settings.

As Frontline goes to press there continues to be uncertainty as to whether there will be a further cut to the disability budget, possibly as much as 3.7%. These cuts, like all the previous ones, will have an impact on the quality of services for people who want and deserve a better life. The more the disability budget is cut, the greater likelihood there is of a creeping movement back to larger settings—maybe not as large as those cited in this issue, but still large enough to traumatise people with intellectual disabilities.

Aiming high—dreaming of and achieving a better life is reasonable, normal, pleasurable and possible—and this movement needs to continue and strengthen.

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