Last September, APT in Tullamore hosted a ‘Seminar on Microboards’. Presentations were made by Linda Perry and Jeff Moulins from British Columbia who represented the Canadian ‘Vela Microboard Association’. A microboard is a small, closely connected group of family and friends who create a unique and intimate support service for a person with a disability. Each microboard member makes a commitment to be part of the individual’s personal community and to introduce them into the larger community. They ensure that the person has the opportunity to both receive from and give to their community.
A microboard (usually numbering from five to eight members) is incorporated as a non-profit society. The board provides relationships and advocates for the person, assists in planning appropriate supports and employs people to meet the person’s needs, using direct payments (where such systems are available). The microboard ensures that the person’s personal supports reflect his/her individual needs.
Valerie McCarthy, from County Down, also gave a key presentation at the seminar in Tullamore. Valerie’s daughter Julie was born in British Columbia and the family lived there until 1997, when they returned to Northern Ireland. Julie had been educated in an inclusive education system in Canada. She was used to person-centred approaches to her needs and opportunities. The family applied for Julie to avail of a direct payment scheme in County Down. Initially, the eligibility criteria seemed to exclude anyone with severe learning disabilities. However, through their GP, Valerie and Julie contacted a social worker and discussed the possibilities of establishing a microboard, as a medium for making a direct payment for Julie. The Eastern Health and Social Services Board (EHSSB) funded a visit by Linda Perry to facilitate the setting-up of the microboard, and to provide training for staff. The Down Lisburn Trust piloted the system for Julie.
The happy outcome of the negotiations and planning is that the direct payment scheme has enabled Julie, who is now 24, to secure a gifted staff support team. She works with children at Barnardos and in a pub, and she is a volunteer with the USPCA. She takes part in a church youth group and has a varied social life. Her quality of life is good—and so is that of her family.