24 February 2000, Davenport Hotel, Dublin
The annual regional meeting of NAMHI for the Eastern region drew a keenly interested attendance to hear President Ann Donovan, Gerry Ryan and Deirdre Carroll report on the past year’s work–giving a flavour of the forthcoming NAMHI AGM in May. A review of NAMHI’s image and role is under way, seeking new ways to make it even more effective in 21st -century Ireland, with rapidly changing political and administrative structures. This is in preparation for the launch of a new five-year plan for NAMHI, on completion and assessment of the 1996 strategic plan 2000: A plan for progress. Gerry Ryan acknowledged general satisfaction with the December budgetary allocations to learning disability, with the essential proviso that the effectiveness of promised improvements which had been budgeted for would be closely monitored by the relevant government departments, and certainly by NAMHI.
NAMHI will sharpen its focus on pressing for a statutory right to service, so that when the ‘good times’ wane and budgetary cutbacks are again threatened, people with intellectual disabilities will be able to claim their rights, with the force of law. The association’s other priorities continue to be to campaign for the highest possible standards, ensured by legislation and inspection; for the end of inappropriate services, e.g. in general psychiatric hospitals; for clarification of legal issues regarding inheritance, guardianship and consent; for the maintenance of clear statistical data for effective planning; for NAMHI members to be more proactive in partnerships and advocacy; for effective ways of working with emerging social partnerships and disability and human rights groups, as well as the NDA, Equality Authority and Comhairle; and for the extension of NAMHI’s own service to members. Gerry Ryan particularly acknowledged the advocacy and advice given by Deirdre Carroll, and the role of NAMHI’s newly appointed Information and Research Officer, Clíona Ní Chualáin.
A major item on the agenda of the Annual Regional Meeting was the facilitation of nominations to the Consultative Committees of the three constituent health boards within the new Eastern Regional Health Authority, which was to come into effect on 1 March 2000- The nominations, all of which were approved, were to be submitted to the new Health Authority with NAMHI’s submission that parents should be represented both on the Mental Handicap Services Development Committee (MHSCC) and the Mental Handicap Services Consultative Committee (MHSCC), and that there should be parent representation for each of the community care areas in each health board. The parents nominated were: East Coast Area Health Board: P.J. Droody and Frieda Finlay; Northern Area Health Board: Tom Halligan and Tony Murray; South-Western Area Health Board: Karen Canning and Sadie Tate. NAMHI hopes to hold an information session for all parent representatives on health board committees later this year, in order to discuss guidelines to assist them in a unified approach to representation, information circulation and feedback. Gerry Ryan pointed out that citizens should also approach the elected public representatives on the Health Board to put their questions or petitions to the Health Board’s chief executive.
One of the topics raised during discussion before the close of the regional meeting was the shortage of staffing levels throughout learning disability services, and the need to attract suitable recruits into nursing, the therapies and care assistance. Increasingly, recruitment approaches are being used in secondary educational settings and at recruitment fairs, and ‘trawls’ are being initiated abroad and in the electronic media. Gerry Ryan stated that it had been agreed with the Department of Health that where present staff shortages might impede progress on the setting up of newly planned programmes or facilities, available funds should be used during the interim to extend home support systems through other existing services.