Protecting vulnerable people

by Stephen Kealy

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THERE IS A DAILY PREDICTABILITY ABOUT THE NEWS—doom and gloom— whether it is on radio, television, or newspapers. Rarely is that human quality of resilience emphasised. In this issue of Frontline there are several examples of resilience by people with intellectual disabilities who have overcome many of the obstacles that life has put in their way, sometimes by people charged with their care.

Issue 73 gave many examples of innovation, change and the possibility of working in a different way in straitened times. In a few months a lot has changed. As this issue goes to press the HSE Chief Executive Officer Professor Drumm has identified a looming overall health budget shortfall of €1 billion-plus because of the changed circumstances. It is difficult to grasp the enormity of this deficit, or the likely cascade effect on all health service delivery units. Service providers will be asked to make further cuts in their budget—when they are already seriously stretched.

The atmosphere in the media to people employed from the public purse belies the contribution civil servants have made, do make and will make, to the public good. Public service, in the true meaning of the words, is often typified by people employed within the disability services in the care and attention provided to a very vulnerable group of people.

This issue of Frontline has many examples of good practice, commitment and willingness to push out the boundaries. The third-level educational opportunities at Trinity College for people with intellectual disabilities are heartening, good-news stories.

David O’Hara’s article on innovations in disability services has many lessons for agencies, planners and government departments about how technology can be used to enhance personal freedom and choice. Skill sharing and helping people to do more for themselves are central tenets in any
personal development programme.

Roy McConkey emphasises the importance of fostering good health and in doing so he identifies the central contribution of lifestyle and living environment in maintaining good health and wellbeing—a theme also taken up by David Felce in his article on housing and by Seamus Greene in describing his ‘eureka moment’.
The good news stories from Irene, Paddy and Seán reiterate the themes of lifestyle, skill, support and how opportunities are never lost.

Access to dental care is not barrier-free as a letter to the Editor makes clear—raising the question, yet again, why it is that vulnerable people often have more difficulty accessing important services. In these difficult times making progress will require all of us to tap our inner strength and resilience to continuously try to improve services and provide more individualised living opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. At a time when doom and gloom have become bywords, vulnerable people need ever stronger voices of support.

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