Converting Policy to Practice

by Stephen Kealy


THIS ISSUE OF FRONTLINE is published with the support of a grant from People in Need. The Board of Frontline were fortunate and grateful to receive a grant which will give some breathing space as it implements its business plan for the publication over the next two years.

A key requirement of going forward is to achieve greater circulation, penetration and advertising. In the current climate, asking organisations and individuals to purchase a subscription to Frontline may be a big ask, given the already-straitened personal circumstances of so many. The Editorial Board of Frontline are determined to secure the future of the publication because it is relevant to the lives of people with intellectual disability, their families and carers.

This issue has a number of articles on early intervention from different parts of the country. The Health Services Executive has worked extremely hard to put in place Early Intervention Services around the country on an equitable and accessible basis. Early intervention is, and will continue to be, an important foundation block for families in their initial and future utilisation of services.

Traditionally some parts of the country prioritised choices with scarce resources to support families of disabled children by installing early services programmes. Unfortunately, until recently this prioritisation was variable, with the consequence that many new intervention services have had to start from a very low baseline of resources. The rich and varied experiences around the country are now being welded into an agreed national approach, with emerging national standards—a most welcome development. The articles also identify some of the difficulties associated with the implementation of the Disability Act—difficulties that are not insurmountable, but certainly do have practical knock-on effects for early services teams.

In his article, Joe Wolfe identifies the importance of helping people to take personal responsibility for the administration of medication. The same theme is taken up by Karina Wallis in talking about optimal individual service design. Karina emphasises the importance of placing the person with intellectual disability at the centre of any planning on their behalf, making sure what is provided is the right fit—but, more importantly, accountable to the person themselves. The articles on advocacy highlight, yet again, clear statements from people with intellectual disability, that decisions about their lives should involve an active and respectful engagement with them.

In Issue 74, tertiary learning programmes were showcased, but omission was made in failing to reference the Centre for Disabilities Studies at University College Dublin, which first offered access to a university campus-based educational programme for people with disabilities, under the able direction of Professor Noonan Walsh, an international expert on disabilities studies.

One of the benefits of being editor of Frontline is the opportunity the position affords to hear about many good-news intellectual disability stories from around the country. Sometimes there is a danger of looking to others from outside the country, and failing to recognise good and person-centred practices evident throughout Ireland. Certainly there are many examples of good practice here at home too.

Individual and person-centred services do not always require additional financial resources, but rather a rekindling of commitment to the vision and a readiness to change. Paying attention and listening to the person with intellectual disability does require an active, respectful communication and meaningful engagement with family members. Resources may be tighter now in Ireland, but striding to make lives more meaningful is a central pillar for the development of services going forward. Unfortunately, that understanding was too often patently absent in former times, as evidenced by the recently published Ryan report. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past.