“The Independent Living Movement began in America in the 1970’s by a group of young people who wanted to leave residential care and live a life of their choice rather than have their life chosen for them”. – Valerie Moran
County Longford is located in the midlands of Ireland. The small county has created a powerful establishment called: Longford’s Centre for Independent Living. Valerie Moran, Manager of the establishment tells us about the organisation, its purpose and its effective strategies.
The background of Longford Centre for Independent Living in the words of Ms. Moran:
Longford Centre for Independent Living was established in September 1999 for and by people with physical and sensory disabilities in Co. Longford. A group of about six people came together (myself included) to look at the gaps in services for people with physical or sensory disabilities throughout Co. Longford. The areas identified as limited or non-existent at that time was education/training, accessible transport,employment, recreational and social interaction. But key to all this we found was Personal Assistance support. Without the assistance of a Personal Assistant (PA) often times a person with a disability could not attend a social event, training or access services because they had no way of going by themselves.
How it all started:
The nature of our service is to support, enable and facilitate a person with a disability to live as independent a life as possible. Holistically we provide a service that facilitates people to have control in how they live their lives, have equal rights and to achieve independence. In theory this means that people with disabilities can make their own decisions about their life and the service they receive and in practice the service user leads their service. This is why we call the service user a Leader. They are in charge of their own service. Moreover, the Independent Living Movement began in America in the 1970’s by a group of young people who wanted to leave residential care and live a life of their choice rather than have their life chosen for them. It was here the title Leader was first conceived. Margaret Thatcher actually brought this new concept to England and many years later Ireland followed suit.
About the organisation:
Initially we were a small organisation employing 12 people through a Community Employment Scheme to work as PAs with 12 Leaders. Today we are a small company with a charitable status, employing 25 people. We are an invaluable and integral group within the community contributing to both local people and businesses. The PAs are the critical link in the process they provide the arms and the legs of people with
disabilities in a lot of cases. At the core of the PA service is enabling the Leaders to do what they otherwise would be unable to do. I have been managing the service since its inception in 1999.
Is the government fund this or what boards are involved in Longford CIL?
Longford CIL has a voluntary board of eight including a doctor, two retired directors of nursing, a solicitor, business woman and psychologist. Very experienced and professional people which oversees the organisation. Currently the service operates from an office space at the College Medical Centre. We are funded by the HSE under Section 39 Funding.
People eligible for the service:
People with a persistent physical or sensory disability between 18- 65 years of age. It is recommended that applicants be registered on the Physical /Sensory Database. There are a number of excellent organisations in the field providing services. Funding comes from the HSE but has steadily reduced over recent years and as a result they are hugely reliant on fund-raising and the goodwill of the community.
The current funding from the HSE only enables the service to cover basic personal care needs in the home and anything beyond that has to be funded from limited public donations and fund-raising.
Applying for the service:
This service is not means tested. Applicants can make a self-referral for a service or an application can be made on their behalf through their Public Health Nurse, GP or Advocat etc. A Support Referral Form can be obtained from Longford CIL. This form is completed by the applicant and posted/emailed to the Clearing House Committee, Regional Disability
Services in Mullingar to be processed. The Community Support Forum formally know as the Clearing House Committee meets once a month to discuss new applications. The forum is a committee set up by HSE and chaired by the Case Manager for people with physical and sensory disabilities within the HSE. The committee itself comprises of a physio therapist, occupational therapist, public health nurse manager and representatives from the Centre for Independent Living, Irish Wheelchair Association and Acquired Brain Injury Ireland which has its own traumatic brain injury lawyer. In the interest of fairness and transparency there are strict guidelines in which
applications are assessed, reviewed and hours/service allocated. The decision to allocate a service or review an existing service can only be done at the request of the Clearing House Committee within these guidelines.
For more information on Longford CIL you can visit their website: www.longfordcic.ie or Facebook: Longford Centre for Independent Living.