A community home for persons with disabilities

A project which facilitated people with disabilities to move from a congregated setting in St. Raphael’s Centre, Youghal, Co. Cork to their own homes in community settings in a planned, phased and coordinated manner, was presented to the judging panel by Deborah Harrington, Project Manager.

Deborah Harrington
Deborah Harrington

She said the project arose from the need to end the practice of people with disabilities living in institutions and an end to providing care through institutional practices which is in line with the HSE policies ‘Time to Move on From Congregated Settings’ and ‘Transforming Lives’.

It involved developing detailed transition plans for each individual with key stakeholders, most importantly the residents, to ensure that adequate preparation was made with and on behalf of the persons moving so that the transition process and the actual move and settling into their new home would be a success.

Ms. Harrington said the aims of the project were:

  • To purchase and make alterations to houses within the community so that they met the needs of the residents.
  • To support residents and families in the transition to their new homes, by consulting and engaging with them prior to, during, and post the transfer.
  • To ensure residents and families were supported to make choices regarding the residents’ new homes in terms of furniture and fittings.
  • To deliver a different model of support to all residents in community residences, one that was person centred and driven by the needs and interests of the residents and to ensure staff provided appropriate support and training to support residents to have a good life.
  • To ensure that each resident was supported through the principles of social role valorisation and supporting self directed life to live a good life of their own choosing.
  • To ensure that residents were socially included within their communities and enjoyed access to and enjoyment of their community in accordance with their own needs and preferences.
  • To build the capacity of families to participate in a meaningful way in the lives of residents.

A detailed transition plan was drawn up for each individual, with key stakeholders, most importantly the residents, to ensure that adequate preparation was made with and on behalf of the person moving so that the transition process and the actual move and settling into their new home would be a success.

Meeting were held with residents and their families to establish a mutual relationship of trust and to build a relationship with each resident to establish a support network/circles of support and networks and connections with local community. Links were established with Primary Care Teams and a GP, Dentist and pharmacist etc of their choice in the community as appropriate was sourced for each individual.

She said the vision for the new community houses were:

  • Empowerment to determine a good life of each resident’s own choosing.
  • Equality for each individual resident, to ensure that all their rights and beliefs were upheld and respected.
  • Capacity Building – ensuring that staff were always focused on building the capacity of each individual resident and then building the capacity of the community to support them.
  • Advocacy – Promoting each individual residents’ voice and building their skills to advocate on their own behalf.
  • Active Citizenship – to ensure that each individual resident was supported and respected as a full citizen within their own community.
  • Compassion towards the residents, their families/staff to acknowledge their anxiety around change.
  • Respecting each other and listening to each individual resident and their families through the discovery process and circles of support.

A meaningful day looks different for all of us, there was no one approach.

Ms. Harrington said that residents were supported to have a meaningful day.  “Discovery process is key.  Everyone is different – a meaningful day looks different for all of us, there was no one approach.  We got to know the resident, listened to them, respected them, supported them.   A meaningful day can involve the little things and the big things – like going to the barber on a regular basis, joining the local film club and going to a live music show, reconnecting with family, going on a holiday. Our objective was to ensure we support each resident in realising their own wishes and goals.”

Ms. Harrington outlined the story of a 59 year old man who had lived in St Raphael’s for several decades and moved to his new home with three other residents.

“He was involved in choices around his new home, such as colours for his room, personalisation of his living space etc.   A transition plan was developed to support him and the transition involved spending time in his new home before the move, getting to know the area and having dinner with his housemates.

“Since moving into his new home he has tried new activities that he would never have experienced before. He is very relaxed and is always laughing and smiling. He enjoys doing the grocery shopping for his own home, shopping and picking out his own clothes and personal items.   He has gone to a local garden centre and learned how to plant flowers into window boxes for his home which he now looks after, watering daily. As a result of this he has got a volunteer job, looking after flowers.

They were hugely enthusiastic about having their own home with their own bedrooms.

“He goes swimming regularly and is going to become a member of a leisure club and take swimming lessons.  He goes to local GAA games supporting the local teams which he enjoys.   He has become a community member by being involved in events and activities in his local area and he recently celebrated his birthday with his family and housemates.”

Ms. Harrington said that three other longstanding friends who had lived in the old community houses were approached to see if they would be interested in taking a tenancy supported by SRC staff.

“They were hugely enthusiastic about having their own home with their own bedrooms. Previously they shared rooms with other residents.  This has been a very positive move for the residents and they are rightly proud of their new home.

“In the future we will continue to work through the discovery process and develop circles of support for residents in the new community houses.   We will continue to support residents who are transitioning to their new homes, with appropriate transition plans, discovery process, involving families etc.  While we have experienced very accelerated change we must recognise we must continue to embed the new model of support. Change takes time and must be managed and we must work continually to embed the desired model of support and culture.”