Ireland: Leaders, leading a new way forward

Ireland as an island has always been an outward looking country, set between the melting pot of America, our friendly neighbour Britain and the network of vision that is Europe. For us Leaders living in Ireland we have always been eager to have what our neighbours have – a system of Direct Payments. The Leader’s movement of change in Ireland is dynamic, is influenced by our neighbours and by the actions of Leaders among us that have strived towards bringing about change. Many of us have left Ireland, travelling to parts of Europe explaining the changes we have made in our country to emerging European states.

However currently in Ireland there is no legislation that provides Leaders with a choice of direct payments. Direct payments have long been a part of the list of demands of those of us who travel to Strasburg for the Freedom Drive. It is a subject that has been meticulously researched by many organisations, academics and activists alike. Technically under current legislation individuals cannot receive government funding directly but organisations can. An intermediary organisation needed to be established that could channel funding to individuals. Áiseanna Tacaíochta was formed by a small group of Leaders to fit this purpose.

We reflected on the different models of direct payments practiced in many other countries and analysed how they could be adapted to work in Ireland. Having decided on the company model system of Direct Payments all that was required was funding. In late October 2010 Áiseanna Tacaíochta, ÁT, successfully secured the necessary development funding to support our work from Genio an Irish non profit organisation helping to fund innovative approaches for social change in the area of disability. Áiseanna Tacaíochta is now the first attempt at securing a system of Direct Payment, being driven by Leaders who are now testing out the practical application of what has been learnt in theory.

Peer support and Training Officer Owen Collumb with founding members Gordon Ryan and Martin Naughton at a peer support session.

Currently there are four pilot participants all ready to take on the challenge of managing their own budget and Personal Assistant services.  The philosophy of Independent Living is steering the organisations development, encouraging participants to work together, with the support of friends and family and with the guidance of ÁT. Áiseanna Tacaíochta itself has been bringing together all of the necessary statutory and voluntary organisation to keep them informed of progress getting their input and support, sharing the learning of what has been experienced by all involved.

We are trying to harness the best of technology to support peer development, ensuring that information and support is easily accessible. It is predicted that Direct Payments will be legislated in Ireland in the next five years as part of the government policy for Individualised Funding. At the early stage of piloting a system of Direct Payments there are important issues for implementation of a policy and in terms of the shape Direct Payments could take in Ireland. The learning from our experience can add to what is already known from other European countries experiences and influence future change in Ireland.

For more information please consult our website which we are building at the moment.

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