Giving a voice to vulnerable people with disabilities

A new National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities (NAS) was launched last week by the Minister for Social Protection Ms Joan Burton TD. The service will provide independent, representative advocacy services for vulnerable people with disabilities.

A new National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities (NAS) was launched last week by the Minister for Social Protection Ms Joan Burton TD. The service will provide independent, representative advocacy services for vulnerable people with disabilities.

It is managed by five Citizens Information Services with teams based around the country with regional offices in Dublin, Westmeath, Offaly, Waterford and Leitrim. The service is funded and supported by the Citizens Information Board.

The keynote speaker Caroline Casey, Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Kanchi outlined the importance of the new service and the benefits of supporting an inclusive society where everyone has something to offer.

Speaking at the launch, Tony McQuinn, Chief Executive, Citizens Information Board commented, “Many people with disabilities are well equipped to make their own decisions when they have access to the necessary information and advice.

“However, some vulnerable people with disabilities are at a disadvantage when claiming their entitlements or making important decisions. The new National Advocacy Service will give a voice to those who are isolated in the community or who live in residential institutions and who cannot represent themselves. The Service will protect their rights, help them gain their entitlements and make positive changes in their quality of life”

The new service follows the completion of a five year pilot Advocacy Programme for People with Disabilities which supported 46 projects nationwide. An independent evaluation report praised the achievements of the pilot programme for the innovative work undertaken and the number of cases (over 6,000) dealt with. The report recommended the development of a national structure to create better co-ordination and a more consistent service for people with disabilities.

Trained advocates will bring positive change for people with disabilities, supporting them to access social welfare, housing and improved living conditions. They can help people reintegrate into the community on leaving a residential institution and link them with local support services.

Feedback from advocates can facilitate change within services, raising expectations, giving people with disabilities more choice, improving their social skills and supporting them to self-advocate.

The new service has five regional based Managers, seven Senior Advocates and 28 Advocates.

The Manager for the South East Region, Selina Doyle said, “We are delighted that the National Advocacy Service is being delivered across the South East Region, we have advocates working in Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Kilkenny, Kildare, Wexford and Wicklow.”

For further information contact Selina Doyle, Advocacy Manager, Co Offaly CIS on 086 0409978

Other speakers at the event included Marie Wolfe, from Galway who spoke about the benefits of an advocacy service that helped her to move to independent living. Also, Angelina Veiga of St John of God’s Carmona Services who spoke about the importance of independent advocacy from a service providers point of view.