So, Farewell then…

by Colin Griffiths

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THIS ISSUE OF FRONTLINE IS MY LAST; it takes as its main theme the health of people with intellectual disability. Various articles present different facets of how one might care for one’s health through utilising the services of twenty-first century Ireland. However, most articles seem to suggest that our health is in our own hands and that as carers we are in a position to greatly influence the healthy life that the person we care for may obtain. Quality of life is a topic that Richard Redmond deals with at some length and it is also an aspect of Michael Kendrick’s and David Kieran’s articles.

As I reflect on the past four years as editor it seems to me that Kieran’s comment is correct—that ‘there is a growing appreciation that what is currently on offer [the services provided by the state] is not necessarily in the best interests of those citizens we claim to serve.’ It seems to me that service provision has certainly improved in coverage over the last four years; I am not sure how much better the quality of services has become. Some services have become beacons of good practice; others, however, seem to remain eternally rooted in practice that is based in the 1970s. I hope that the establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority will finally convince those recalcitrant services that they need to do what everybody in the sector wishes them to do, which is to put the service user at the centre of their planning, their thinking and their actions. This is not rocket science. There are plenty of services which are delivering quality care here in Ireland, and those that need improvement know where they can learn how it is done.

The Gallery section of Frontline was an innovation four years ago and is now firmly established at the [literal] centre of the magazine. For this edition I have asked my friend Tor Torp who lives in Oslo to take pictures in the Vigelandpark. This town-centre park has 192 sculptures that reflect the human condition. They were constructed by Gustav Vigeland in the 1920s and 1930s. It seemed to me when I first saw them two years ago that they had something to say about people, about how they interact and about how they manifest challenging behaviour. These pictures show life in the raw but in so doing they illustrate feelings that we all share at different times in our lives.

Finally I wish to reflect on the changes that have taken place in Frontline during my watch. As the reader survey which was reported in the last edition [68] stated, the magazine has changed, it has perhaps become heavier in that some articles have reported on research in fairly academic terms. I have tried to balance these by emphasising that there is a place for frontline staff to report on what they do in their practice and also for service users and relatives to write about their lives and concerns. Frontline serves a broad community and as such it will generally contain some articles of interest to everyone, although they will not be the same for different communities. Secondly, I have tried to publish articles that stimulate thought and that tell of innovations in education and care practices that we, as people with disabilities and their friends and carers, should demand from services and government. In other words, Frontline has informed the debate on disability in Ireland. The magazine itself has had some production difficulties over the past year from which it is slowly recovering and we hope to get back to schedule soon. As there are now four board members with experience of editing the magazine, the editorship will be rotated among them for the next couple of issues before a new editor is chosen. I will remain on the board and perhaps get more of a chance to write now I have relinquished the editorship. Finally, I would like to wish you all well in our continuing quest for the best for people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland.

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