Struggling to continue to learn and train

by Stephen Kealy

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Stephen Kealy

Late summer can be an exciting time for many 17 and 18 year olds as they take satisfaction in the points earned in their Leaving Certificates and look forward to attending a third-level college. For students disappointed in their exam results there are multiple educational and training options available to them—opportunities which will allow them to build a life for themselves independent of their parents. The opportunities for those young people starkly contrast with the never-ending year-on-year struggle that intellectually disabled people have in securing a training or other placement having successfully progressed through their schooling. Reluctantly, but inevitably, there is the inescapable conclusion that young people with an intellectual disability are not equitably treated vis a vis their non-disabled peers in respect of continuing educational and training opportunities.

This issue of Frontline provides a rich resource of articles detailing many innovative programmes on supporting people with an intellectual disability to participate in employment. Extraordinarily worthwhile work-related contributions are made by men and women with an intellectual disability in our society. Yet somehow their skills, learned in school and through broader educational and training opportunities, do not entitle them to the same post-school educational and training opportunities. Their skills have been hard won and honed through in-school and out-of-school activities. Why then should school leavers with an intellectual disability have to face the struggle of finding a continuing educational or training opportunity to enable them not only to retain those hard-won skills, but to enhance them further? In the absence of committed funding, the struggle and uncertainty facing men and women with an intellectual disability have huge personal costs to them as individuals. There is a significant impact on their families too; their lack of post-schooling opportunities causes added stress that can lead to increased physical and mental health challenges.

The featured articles in this issue identify the personal benefits of employment for people with intellectual disability, but also the positive cascade-effects that their participation on a more equal basis in our society has for their employers and fellow employees.

Finally, after many years of debate and false starts, the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Bill has been published. In his article, John Costello explains the main points of the bill and reviews some of the challenges it presents. While shortcomings may be addressed at committee stage, that won’t happen without further strong representations to members of the Oireachtas. It is important to track what is planned, and you should bring your views on the legislation to the attention of your local TD or Senator.

Frontline continues to struggle to survive within its very thin subscription and cost base. We are looking at the possibility of moving to an electronic-only publication linked to an enhanced website. The Editor and members of the Editorial Board are looking for readers’ opinions—do you want to keep receiving a ‘hard copy’ in the post, or would you prefer to read Frontline online? (Please contact secretary@frontline-ireland.net to tell us your views.)

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