EDITORIAL: CHANGING OUR LIVES

by Colin Griffiths

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When planning and compiling a new edition of Frontline, the editorial board generally has a clear idea of what articles might go into the edition and what the underlying theme to link the articles together. This edition had been planned to look at the contribution that the alternative and complementary therapies offer to people with intellectual disability. With the exception of Nicola Kealy’s insightful article on drama therapy, this did not happen—I am not quite sure why that was so. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of massage, Snoezelen, aromatherapy, as well as other longer-standing therapeutic approaches such as dance, drama and art therapy, are widely used in practice in Ireland. That being the case I would invite readers of Frontline who are working in these fields to contact me if they would like to share how they carry out their work with others in the field.

As the old saying goes, ‘God never closes one door, but he opens another’—and so it was with this edition, as advocacy emerged as the key theme. Christina Burke and Maria Wolfe report from the namhi self-advocacy conference, and to complement that report, Máiríde Woods explains how Comhairle is expanding and opening up different approaches to advocacy so that the voices of service users may be heard more assertively above the din created by government, service providers and academics. By way of complementing these pieces Michael Kendrick offers some interesting views on how those who use services can influence these services and the people who work in them. What seems to be important is that service users and their parents and siblings recognise that they can influence services at a local level and that staff actively seek out and listen to their views. Irish society is changing and the empowerment of the individual at all levels seems to me to be one of the features of this change, here are some suggestions as to how to make these innovations work for the good of all.

As if a serendipitous wind was blowing out of Leinster House, the Disability Act has now arrived. Paul Horan offers a first impression of the Act, which he gives a mixed review. There will be many different opinions expressed regarding this Act and how it may change the services offered to people with disability, again I would ask Frontline readers to send in your views, both what you think of the Act itself and your experiences of how it is assisting or impeding your search for appropriate services. It is on the evidence of whether the Act is truly enabling people to live better lives that it will be judged. Increases in social welfare benefits coming from the Budget of December 2005, as well as increases in Carer’s Allowance, may also serve to improve the lives of people with intellectual disability. However, overhanging all of this remains the fact that Ireland still does not provide a service to all those with intellectual disability who require one. This situation is not acceptable in a country that is now one of the wealthiest in the world.

Lastly this issue of Frontline features a dramatic wall hanging that represents Yeat’s poem Wandering Aengus, this beautiful piece of work is a co-production between students in Dundalk Institute of Technology and employees in Stewarts Hospital Services. This striking artwork is testament to the innovative flair and creative possibilities that can result from the synergistic melding of the abilities of people with disabilities and those who are not so labelled. It is an inspiration and it is to be hoped that it has opened up possibilities that others can build on in the future.

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