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Just the Job for Orlaith

As the UN publicises its International Day of People with Disabilities, we’d like to share the story of Orlaith Jackson.

The UN event – on Dec 3 – is highlighting people’s access to work and the people who support them to find a job.

Orlaith, who’s 28, has recently started work with SuperValu near our NAHVI service in Dublin and is enjoying it very much. She originally had 12 weeks of work experience, but the supermarket had no jobs to offer at the end of it. However, they soon called her and offered a contract until the end of January 2023.

“I work Monday and Wednesday from 9am until 1pm,” says Orlaith. “I’ve had excellent support from SuperValu. If there’s something I’m not sure of, my colleagues are very helpful. I love it because I meet people and I’m making new friends.

“Having a job is important to me. I did a course in preparation for working in the retail industry, and it’s great to be able to put it into practice.”

Larry Morris, who supports Orlaith, said: “Orlaith, being the person she is, got on well at work from day one. She’s very sociable and is a great communicator. She’s perfect for the job because of her outgoing personality and social skills.”

NAHVI, in Donabate, was established in 2001 as a housing and support service for people with visual impairment and an intellectual disability. It currently supports 16 adults.

Positive Futures has provided governance and management oversight to NAHVI since 2018, with the service formally transferring to Positive Futures in August 2022. Dr Agnes Lunny, Chief Executive of Positive Futures, said: “Orlaith’s story is one of the many successes of the people supported by NAHVI. It’s been wonderful to witness people graduating from college, getting jobs, and making other personal achievements that have enabled them to play a full role in society.”

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Fun on the Farm Leads to Charity Award

Fermanagh Fun Farm in Lisbellaw is the latest recipient of our Welcome Award for its inclusive attitude towards the young people we support.

Winners of the award are entitled to display a window sticker so that people with a learning disability know they will receive a warm welcome. Previous recipients include the BBC and Belfast International Airport.

Pauline O’Hagan, Manager of our Brighter Futures Project, said: “Fermanagh Fun Farm have been so warm and welcoming to the children who have visited with Positive Futures. The staff have made the children’s experiences memorable ones. Nothing was too much trouble. Staff thought of their every need and expectation and involved the children in all aspects of the farm visit.”

Alan Potters, Manager of the farm, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to win such an award. It recognises the work our team put in to welcome all visitors to the attraction and the support we put in place to make the experience as enjoyable for all.”

Fermanagh Fun Farm C.I.C is a non–profit social enterprise established in 2019 and run by a committee called Friends of the Farm. It is home to many adopted and rescued animals. It offers an active experience for all the family, including pet handling, pony walking and grooming and animal feeding. It also features a tearoom, gift shop, indoor/outdoor play area, quad and trailer ride and fun fair rides.

Dr Agnes Lunny, Chief Executive of Positive Futures, said: “Being welcomed and accepted makes a huge difference to the young people we support and their families. We like to reward organisations for inclusion, compassion and understanding, and Fermanagh Fun Farm certainly lives up to those ideals.”

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Social Care Organisations Appeal to MLAs to Save Sector from Collapse

Leaders of social care organisations have won the backing of members of the former Assembly Health Committee as they battle to save the sector from collapse because of staff shortages.

Five organisations – Positive Futures, Praxis, Camphill Community, Inspire Wellbeing and the Cedar Foundation – reported a catalogue of problems caused by underfunding, including difficulties recruiting and retaining staff and the need to hire agency workers at increasing expense.

They met MLAs at Parliament Buildings as members of ARC NI (Association for Real Change), which is the umbrella body for social care providers. Participating MLAs Colm Gildernew (SF), Deborah Erskine (DUP), Colin McGrath (SDLP) and Danny Donnelly (Alliance), together with a representative for Alan Chambers (UUP) agreed to assist with a series of measures designed to address the issues.

The care providers will produce a paper outlining the situation, which the MLAs have agreed to raise with Health Minister Robin Swann. They also agreed to put the care providers’ concerns to Health Trusts in meetings already arranged. And the providers will produce costings for aligning basic salaries in the sector with those in the statutory sector. This does not include other benefits enjoyed by workers in that sector.

Dr Agnes Lunny, Chief Executive of Positive Futures, said: “Some of the organisations are experiencing vacancy rates as high as 58% in some services. Staff are reporting burnout from working extra hours, and this results in further shortages through sickness absence. Despite increased demand for our services, many organisations are not in a position to accept new referrals. In some cases, existing services are being handed back to Health & Social Care Trusts.

“Despite digging into our own reserves to improve salaries, people are still able to walk out of a social care organisation and enjoy an immediate pay rise by taking a job in a supermarket.”

Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew, Chair of the former Health Committee, said: “I was delighted to facilitate this meeting given the crucial role of the organisations we met. The social care workforce is absolutely key to health and social care delivery here and this must be recognised and valued appropriately. It is vital that this sector can continue to deliver care to some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

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Learning Disability Pride

Learning Disability Pride

Learning Disability Pride is set to make a spectacular return to Carrickfergus this summer. The event is taking place on Saturday 24 June to raise awareness of learning disability and will commence with a noon carnival parade from Taylor’s Avenue along the seafront to Carrickfergus Castle. 

The parade will be led by Oscar winning actor, James Martin, who entered the Guinness Book of Records this year as the first person with Down Syndrome to win the award.

 Positive Futures has previously participated in this event, and we are delighted to be taking part again this year, with around 40 people we support and staff coming from Omagh, Lisburn, Belfast and Bangor. Feel free to join us – the event runs from 12pm – 5pm. In addition to the parade, there’ll be family fun activities in the castle car park, including live entertainment hosted by Q Radio’s Declan Wilson. 

The line–up features dance and drama performances from learning disability organisations and music from local band, This Way Up. Other activities include arts and crafts, face painting, bouncy castles, and a petting farm with many of the activities being free to take part in. The packed programme has been developed around the theme ‘Do Your Thing’ and will also feature market stalls, food vendors and workshops such as drumming and drama. 

Positive Futures is also behind the scenes at the event this year as we have been part of the organising committee for the first time. It promises to be a fantastic celebration of the contribution people with a learning disability make to society, as well as a fun day out.

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Agnes Lunny, Interviewed on BBC Radio Foyle About Muckamore Abbey Hospital

Agnes Lunny, Interviewed on BBC Radio Foyle About Muckamore Abbey Hospital

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Agnes Lunny interviewed on BBC Radio Foyle about Muckamore Abbey Hospital

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