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.”
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.”
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.”
The Mellon Country Inn Hotel near Omagh is the latest winner of our Welcome Award.
Deborah Gowdy, Service Manager at our Sperrin Supported Living Service in Omagh, nominated the hotel after spending a weekend there with some of the people we support.
“From beginning to end, the Mellon Country Inn Hotel excelled in ensuring everyone was catered for,” she said. “Nothing was too much trouble for the staff, who were patient, treated everyone with respect and offered a choice between breakfast in bed or eating in the restaurant.
“One of the people we support was celebrating her birthday. Every time a member of staff met her, they wished her a happy birthday. They also served her a celebratory mocktail as a surprise. She was so happy it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Another person we support had the executive suite and didn’t want to leave on Monday.”
Recipients of the Welcome Award are entitled to display a window sticker so that people with a learning disability know they will receive a warm welcome. Previous winners include the BBC and Belfast International Airport.
Terri–Marie McGale, one of the Managers of the Mellon Country Inn Hotel, said: “We were delighted when our Positive Futures guests came to stay with us for a few nights. It was an absolute pleasure to have them all with us and we were more than happy to help meet their needs in any small way that we could. We pride the hotel in being an all–inclusive, safe area for everyone who comes through our doors. When we heard that we had been nominated for the award we were over the moon – every single member of the team works so hard, and for that to be recognised is amazing.”
Dr Agnes Lunny, Chief Executive of Positive Futures, said: “I was delighted to receive Deborah’s email nominating the Mellon Country Inn Hotel for the Welcome Award. The staff there certainly made it a very special stay and brought joy into the lives of the people we support. It’s a weekend they won’t forget.”
In January and February 2023, we completed our eleventh Annual Consultation Exercise (ACE) with our key stakeholders: the people we support, family members / carers, and representatives from the HSC Trusts, HSE and Tusla. The comprehensive feedback gained through this process has informed an action plan that we will be implementing during 2023–24 and beyond.
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.
Could you help us deliver our unique brand of support for adults with a learning disability, acquired brain injury or autistic spectrum condition?
Would you like a career that makes a REAL difference?
We could have just the job for you.
Drop in to our recruitment event for our East Coast Supported Living Service on Monday 26 September 2022 at our office, 65/67 High Street, Bangor, BT20 5BE. Drop in anytime between 2pm and 7pm.
You can fill in an application form and be interviewed on the day. We’re offering a welcome bonus of £100 when you’ve been with us for four weeks (with an extra £50 if you were interviewed at one of our recruitment events) and a further £200 when you’re confirmed in post. We also offer a competitive salary and benefits package, generous holidays and a discount card for shops and restaurants.
You’ll need to be compassionate, enthusiastic about supporting people to reach their full potential, and have a sense of fun.
We provide an Information Handbook to people who use our services. The Handbook refers to a number of policies, procedures and guidance. These are available to download to provide the people supported and/or their family or representative with more information about the support that we provide.
“I was just casually chatting with a friend one day when she mentioned that she was involved in a service called Mo Shaol, which offered support to families that had children or adults with an intellectual disability,” says Lisa. “She put me in touch with the service manager and soon after that, Zara, who’s now 5, came into our lives. I’d encourage everyone who has maybe thought of doing something like this to give it a go.”
Mo Shaol is run by Positive Futures, which supports people with an intellectual disability, acquired brain injury or autistic spectrum condition, in partnership with HSE Disability Services in Louth and Meath. Mo Shaol operates a network of HomeShare and Short Break Hosts, who provide short break (respite) support for families who need it.
Hosts can offer support in their own homes – or even just a regular day out in the community. Anyone who comes forward simply outlines their availability, and the Mo Shaol staff will carefully match them with the appropriate person who needs support.
Zara’s father, Cathal, says: “Zara gets one to one attention from Lisa which is sometimes hard in a busy family home like mine. She has a friend outside of her immediate family which is really important. She gets to spend some time away from her siblings, which is great too for her as it helps her to develop skills like socialising skills.
“Mo Shaol has changed Zara’s life. As her father, I can see the happiness in her when she knows she is going to spend time with Lisa. She waits at the window watching out for her and jumps up and down with excitement as she looks forward to it so much.
“It’s great for me, too, because it gives me a break.”
Kirsty Cooke, Manager of the Mo Shaol service, says: “Our HomeShare Hosts are extra–ordinary, ordinary people from all walks of life who have time in their lives and, where required, space in their homes to offer support. That support can be everything from a permanent arrangement to a short break or days out.
“We have so many stories of how people’s lives have been transformed by what we do. It doesn’t just change the life of the person being supported, but the life of the host, too. All our hosts find it hugely rewarding. To be a host, you don’t have to have a family of your own. You can just be someone with the time and space to make a difference.
“Every HomeShare arrangement is unique, depending on people’s individual needs and what the host can offer. To be referred to us, the adult or child must be under the care of the HSE Disability team in Louth or Meath. The HSE decides the amount of support. Hosts are assessed by a HomeShare Social Worker and also need Garda clearance and a Tusla check. We provide excellent training, guidance and ongoing support, which is updated throughout a host’s time with the service.”
Lisa says of being a host: “Depending on the needs and interests of the person you’re supporting, a typical day might involve going to the park, doing some arts and crafts or even just watching a favourite movie. Knowing that you’re offering support to a family that needs it is hugely rewarding. I believe life is better when you’re giving, which is why I got involved. Because my husband and I both work in Health & Social Care, we know first–hand how great the need is.”
Donna McGuinness supports Eamon (10), who has Down’s Syndrome and is non–verbal.
“As a family, we get great joy from spending time with Eamon,” she says. “We have two boys at home, and they love to organise some new experiences we can do with him each week. Eamon also loves our two dogs and is comfortable to come and visit us any time.”
But as Eamon’s mum, Laura, explains, his story used to be very different. Until he was nine years old, he had not slept a single night through and there was no support on offer.
“I had no–one to take Eamon other than my parents, who were getting on in years,” Laura says. “They are so good to him, but I was keen to establish another social support. It was suggested that we try this new service called Mo Shaol. They offered to find a host family or help me to find someone. Donna was Eamon’s pre–school teacher and was absolutely fantastic with him at the time. When she said yes, I was in tears of gratitude.
“For the first time, Eamon has friends and a social life outside his own family. The best thing about Mo Shaol is knowing that he has another layer of support in this world and if anything were to happen there is someone who would care for him. The staff at Mo Shaol are a great support, too.”
Mo Shaol and its sister service, Families Matter Shared Lives always needs new volunteer Hosts. Financial support is available and full training and ongoing support are provided.