SERVICE PROVIDERS AND THE WEB

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Our ‘current issue’ in Frontline touches on the issue of staffing–recruitment, retention and job satisfaction. It is too broad a topic to cover comprehensively here, but it is one which is particularly important now, when Irish disability services have the necessary funding to expand to meet unmet needs. In previous decades (way back in the last century!) it was an employers’ market, when perhaps organisations could hire and pay the going rate, and not think too much about satisfying their employees’ psychological needs and career development. Recently, more and more people find their work environment overly stressful. Good employers investigate ways to alleviate unnecessary pressures, listen to their staff, organise in-house courses and, where possible, institute more flexible work practices. As Anne Rowe-Monaghan writes (p.18), frontline workers need ‘opportunities for personal and career development, and a systems structure that facilitates empowerment, recognition and usage of the personal strengths of staff’.

One short-term answer to the critical staff shortages has been the significant number of nurses recruited from abroad, particularly from the Philippines. It seems an inspired move, and we must hope that the new arrivals will have every opportunity to use their talents fully in our services, to further develop their own work skills in their new work setting, and to enjoy living and working in Ireland. Surely, there is much to be gained in the criss/cross of perspectives between ‘native’ Irish staff and their new colleagues from other countries. We must also hope that our state bureaucracy will very soon ease procedures to make it easier to borrow (let’s not say steal!) the talents of many more professionals and careworkers from other countries.

It is no longer possible to ignore the importance of the WorldWideWeb, and the Frontline editorial board has finally ‘grasped the nettle’–only gradually and rather gingerly, I admit. Five years ago, our previous editor Colm Brazel tried to enthuse the editorial board about the possibilities of the Internet and he designed a prototype learning disability website. But the rest of us were not yet ready for the leap. Gradually over the intervening years, we’ve come to recognise the advantages of having a web presence for Frontline:

  • to extend the ‘visibility’ of Frontline in Ireland and further afield, particularly among families;
  • to attract more subscribers;
  • to feature some of the articles and issues covered in the magazine;
  • to serve as an additional resource and linking to other learning disability sites;
  • to provide a discussion forum for families and workers in intellectual disability.

During the last academic year, we availed of a student project on website design. TCD student Caroline Roughneen produced a nearly-complete site during her project, but despite the manual she patiently prepared to instil the necessary IT know-how, I and my home computer failed to surmount the giant leap from the TCD computer network to an up-and-running Frontline website.

Finally, last winter, with the kind sponsorship of Bizquip, we commissioned a website design from Alan Cronin at Innovative Web Site Design. Eureka! The results can now be seen at www.frontline-Ireland.com. We hope that many of our current readers, and a wider audience in the near future, will visit the site and find it useful, and we invite you to send us your opinions and suggestions. Now all we have to do is keep the site well maintained. They say ‘it’s easy!’ (Yeah, I’ve heard that before!)

During the long process of developing our new Frontline website, we’ve had to explain our terminology–a bugbear for all of us, probably jargon to others. One IT guru was particularly perplexed and amused by our use of the term ‘service providers’ and ‘service users’, because, of course, those terms hold different connotations in Internet-speak. But maybe they’re not so different–whatever the service offered, ‘users’ deserve a reliable service from their ‘provider’, whether it’s Indigo, IOL, health board or voluntary body.