2006 Annual Review

Issued on June 1 2007

Annual Review 2006


Chairperson's Report

The preceding year, 2005, was groundbreaking, with the enactment of the Disability Act 2005. However, the year under review was also momentous for the disability movement. The Social Partnership Agreement was negotiated and agreed, and gave expression to the commitments of Government and the social partners to the National Disability Strategy (NDS) and the implementation of mainstreaming policy. The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), representing the disability interest within Social Partnership, played an unprecedented leadership role in the negotiation process. Members of DFI can be proud of the commitments now made, but equally we must all continue to orientate the efforts and focus of our organisations to face the challenges of implementation in a mainstreaming context.

During this time DFI was also deeply involved in sustained efforts to influence the final shape of the six Departmental Sectoral Plans under the NDS. These Plans were eventually debated in the Dáil and Seanad as part of their enactment process. A commitment, which DFI had been seeking as part of the Disability Bill campaign, was to have the Strategy Statement of each Government Department take account of mainstreaming policy and the disability commitments of each Department. This was significantly progressed when Government stated that the Sectoral Plan commitments would be included in the Strategy Statements and Business Plans of each of the six Sectoral Plan Departments. This commitment ensures that each Sectoral Plan forms an integral part of the relevant Department's strategic vision, business planning processes and work objectives. We also engaged strongly to influence the 'Citizens Information Bill 2006' (formerly 'Comhairle Amendment Bill 2004)' in relation to the advocacy remit of the Citizens Information Board (formerly Comhairle) for people with disabilities.

Despite these developments and achievements, frustrations arose within the sector in regard to its relationship with the Health Service Executive (HSE). The second full year of operation of the HSE, 2006, concluded with the view voiced across our sector that disability has not found expression within the overall health agenda. This would have been our reasonable expectation, given the importance of mainstreaming and the National Disability Strategy to Government. There was a clear sense of frustration and despair across the voluntary disability sector on this issue. We unreservedly wish the Government and the HSE every success in their efforts to reform the health services, but to date the HSE has not commenced a sustained or coherent engagement with our sector.

DFI has also been active in areas that have yet to gain strong commitment from Government. One of these areas is the provision of organisational and capacity building supports to the organisations in our sector. While Government has repeatedly acknowledged the important public interest role of voluntary disability organisations, this has yet to be matched with an adequately resourced and coherent programme to bolster and improve the infrastructure of organisations. Notwithstanding this, DFI pressed ahead, progressing work from earlier years, and in particular we commenced operation of the 'Chairs as Effective Leaders' Project, a pilot project involving fourteen chairpersons from DFI organisations in an exploration of governance issues and supports for organisations. There is a clear and absolute link between having a fit and healthy organisation and its capacity to develop and deliver effective services and supports particularly in this new policy environment.

The Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, 'Provision of Disability Services by Non Profit Organisations' (December 2005) makes reference to a range of organisational capacity and development issues. This is reassuring to DFI in its ongoing efforts to ensure greater focus on capacity building in organisations across the sector.

By June we saw Government commit to a comprehensive programme of measures in the ten year Social Partnership Agreement, 'Towards 2016'. These measures, if implemented, will revolutionise the day-to-day lived experience of people with disabilities, their families and carers by 2016. However, by year end we had witnessed lethargy in progressing the resourcing and system change issues which are urgently needed in order to bring these commitments to fruition.

The Estimates and Budget 2007, while significantly improving the income and benefits situation of people with disabilities, did not introduce the Cost of Disability Payment. Furthermore, there was no provision for putting further services into operation, nor were funding shortfalls in current service provision addressed. The Estimates and Budget 2007 have failed to deliver the funding necessary to meet the commitments set out in 'Towards 2016'. This was hugely disappointing.

I mentioned above the strong relationship between the effectiveness of governance and management systems, and the quality and appropriateness of activities undertaken and services provided by organisations. In that regard, corporate governance work progressed by DFI was related to reviewing our governance structures, progression of our ICT Strategy and reviewing and updating our financial analysis and reporting systems, particularly to support the Board. Otherwise the Board gave consideration to its own working procedures.

I wish to thank my Board colleagues for their role in guiding the work of the Federation throughout the year. Each one of us on the Board acts in a voluntary capacity, bringing sector-wide experience and perspective to the role. I would like to mention in particular my fellow officers John Saunders, Chairperson, Marie Lynch, Chairperson / Vice Chairperson and Paul Ledwidge, Vice Chairperson, for their particular support and work. 1

During the year one Board Member, Nick Killian, resigned. I wish to thank him for his service and support. I welcome also new members to the Board during the year. These are Kieran Loughran and Anne Winslow.

Many other people throughout the membership of DFI work on a regular basis to provide voluntary service to the Federation's mission. They too are to be acknowledged and thanked.

There were significant staff changes during the year, and I want to wish those who moved on from DFI all the best, and to welcome new staff. In appointing a dedicated Corporate Services Executive and an ICT Manager DFI is well placed to move into the future with increased efficiency and effectiveness.

Finally I would like to thank our Chief Executive, John Dolan, and staff members, for their continued dedication to ensuring that the objectives of the Disability Federation of Ireland are achieved.

Geraldine Clare

1 John Saunders was Chairperson to May 2006. Marie Lynch was Vice-Chairperson to May 2006, when she was elected Chairperson. Marie Lynch resigned in January 2007, and Geraldine Clare was appointed Chairperson. Paul Ledwidge was elected Vice-Chairperson in May 2006

Chief Executive Officer's Overview

In last year's Review I noted that mainstreaming, as articulated through the National Disability Strategy, has provided the context around which we have had to reform our thinking and reprioritise our work. The Strategy was given further expression and depth by mid 2006 through 'Towards 2016', the new Social Partnership Agreement. Having the ability to plan strategically in this new policy context demands that DFI must look outside as much as within, to partnership and collaborative working, as much as to our own resources. This is vital if we are to continue to effectively support our member organisations.

At management level we appointed a Corporate Services Executive, Joe Lynch, and an ICT Manager, Denis Cadogan. These two roles are key if we are to improve our internal effectiveness. We had the departure of two members of the Management Team, Kieran Loughran and Aisling Walsh. This has necessitated a period of change and reorientation, as part of which Allen Dunne took on the role of Deputy Chief Executive Officer, and Joanne McCarthy, formerly a Support Officer, joined the management team as Senior Executive Officer, Policy and Research. Two new Support Officers, Joan O'Donnell and Louise McCann, were recruited, and one new Administration Support Services post was filled by Eleanor Scanlan.

There was also a reorientation of roles and functions across the administration support team in Head Office. Structural changes to the office layout also took place. I am particularly grateful to all the staff for their forbearance, patience and support in making the necessary changes. We also developed work undertaken in previous years by improving pension benefits and initiating death in service benefit.

The Chairperson's Report and this overview set out the major areas of work within DFI over the year. Negotiating 'Towards 2016', Health Service Reform, the estimates and budget campaign, and organisational development and capacity building for the organisations in the sector were key areas of activity. Disability John Dolan, Chief Executive Officer 7 organisations share a long tradition of providing services to, and advocating for, people with disabilities, and this work continues to be a challenge in the current new policy environment. There is a further challenge, too, for DFI. We must continue to advocate on behalf of our member organisations and the sector to ensure their work is valued, well resourced, and that effective support services are put in place.

We became involved, at very short notice, in the HSESKILL Programme training programme to secure the provision of training for over 400 front line staff in a number of our organisations. The administration of the programme was a challenge to DFI. So too were the drawn out negotiations for 'Towards 2016', which ran concurrently with work on the Sectoral Plans. All of this took place while we were undergoing significant management and administration support changes. It is a credit to the staff team that this ran smoothly at the same time as a major work programme.

It is important to acknowledge the work and effort of a number of distinct groups within DFI. The National Council and Board provide our governance and oversee our management. Within that context the staff team work to further the objectives of DFI. Members of the Council and Board all operate on a voluntary basis. Board Members, who meet on a monthly basis, are often called upon to give additional time and expertise. For this I am grateful. Board Officers have specific roles and responsibilities. In particular, I wish to acknowledge John Saunders, Chairperson, for his sustained work during the year and his advice and support to me as CEO. As his term of office came to an end, I wish to say a special word of thanks to him for his commitment to, and support of, the work of DFI. I also wish to welcome Marie Lynch to the position of Chairperson, and to thank her for her support and commitment. Throughout the year Geraldine Clare, Hon. Treasurer, undertook that specific responsibility for which she is also to be thanked. We also have other volunteers who represent DFI's interests on a range of working groups and committees. They too play an important role on behalf of our membership.

John Dolan
Chief Executive Officer

Vision And Mission

The Disability Federation of Ireland is the national support mechanism for voluntary organisations in Ireland, covering all areas of disability and disabling conditions, hidden, intellectual, mental health, physical, sensory and emotional disability. DFI aims to ensure that Irish society is fully inclusive of people with disabilities, and, in pursuit of this vision, it acts as an advocate for the sector and supports organisations to further enable people with disabilities.

At the end of the year in review, DFI supported over one hundred and fifty voluntary disability organisations and groups. Seventy-two of these comprise the National Council, and a further thirty five are Associate Members.

DFI provides information, training and support, organisational and management development, research and policy development, advocacy, representation and networking opportunities to voluntary organisations, which will enable them to deliver the best possible range of services to people with disabilities. The broader disability sector is also supported through DFI's representation on the Community and Voluntary Pillar of Social Partnership, as well as through a range of other fora and structures.

The four strategic objectives, outlined in our Strategic Plan 2004 - 2010, and adopted by the National Council, provide the guidance and the basis for all of our work. All activity outlined in this Review revolves around these objectives. These are:

  • To influence and contribute to Government policy in respect of people with disabilities
  • To support individual member organisations in accordance with their own defined needs arising from the diversity of their service users and the supports and services provided
  • To develop and consolidate a national platform which will articulate the views and perspectives of the disability sector in Ireland
  • In order to maximise its potential in respect of these three objectives, DFI will engage in capacity building and organisational development


Building A National Platform During 2006 DFI continued to articulate the views and perspectives of the voluntary disability sector in Ireland. A main goal has been to ensure that organisations operate in an environment which understands and respects their voluntary role in society and which enables their optimal participation. At national level, this work related to the National Disability Strategy, Social Partnership, the Health Service Reform Programme and the Annual Estimates and Budget process.

The organisation continued to develop partnerships and alliances within the disability sector, the broad community and voluntary sector and beyond. The two major areas in which DFI collaborated with other organisations were the Social Partnership process and the National Disability Strategy.

As members of the Community and Voluntary Pillar of Social Partnership, DFI aimed to ensure that commitments made under the last Social Partnership Agreement, Sustaining Progress, were met. At the same time, DFI participated in the negotiations for the new tenyear agreement, 'Towards 2016'.

As members of the Disability Legislation Consultation Group (DLCG), now renamed the Disability Stakeholders' Group (DSG), DFI continued its work on the Departmental Sectoral Plans and other National Disability Strategy commitments. The acceptance by Government of the need to have the Sectoral Plans related to the planning and monitoring of the Departmental Strategy Statements was a huge achievement for the sector. DFI had consistently highlighted and led on this issue for the past number of years.

Much of DFI work around policy issues and supports for organisations is undertaken in collaboration with member organisations. DFI aims to create connections between disability organisations, which leads to greater sharing and effectiveness across the sector. The success of the many platform and activity events held during the year is further evidence of the growing cohesion amongst organisations. There are, nevertheless, practical issues to be addressed around the capacity of administration and support systems within organisations, areas in which Government is still very slow to invest.

DFI continued to work with other umbrella groups within the disability sector. The work of our External Linkage and Feedback Network in relation to Social Partnership also continued in place together with the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies Providing Services to People with Intellectual Disability, Inclusion Ireland, Not for Profit Business Association and People with Disabilities in Ireland.

DFI continued to highlight issues which have an impact across the broad disability spectrum and which have posed real challenges for our organisations. These included funding deficits, value for money implications, unmet needs, charity legislation and regulation, housing and accommodation, Sectoral Plans, Independent Assessment of Need (INA), advocacy services, including the Personal Advocacy Service (PAS), Health Service Reform, and the relationship between the disability sector and the HSE.

A wide range of organisations and representative structures are active at local and regional levels. These include the Community Platforms, Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs) and Social Inclusion Measures (SIMs) groups. DFI works with these groups and organisations to ensure that the regional issues of the disability sector are adequately represented, not only at local and regional levels, but nationally also. DFI actively supports representatives on many of these committees, offering them a feedback mechanism to the disability organisations in the local area.

DFI worked to further capacity building and the general development of the sector. There is a view, however, within the statutory sector and other agencies that the disability sector is not coordinated or cohesive. This view has been expressed to the point where it has led to the belief that there are too many voluntary disability organisations. The evidence, from DFI's perspective, does not support this view. Rather, Government should, we believe, be more proactive in using its Departments and agencies to support organisations within the disability sector in an effort to bring about more coherence and collaborative working at national, regional and local levels. For DFI's part, we continued during the year to grow confidence and trust within our sector in order to work towards achieving greater cohesion and effectiveness.

Policy Developments

Joanne McCarthy, Senior Executive Officer, Policy and Research

DFI continued to build on its contribution to the development of policies that support the work of the sector. This work includes securing and monitoring commitments under the NDS and 'Towards 2016', and delivering high quality, appropriate health and personal social services to people with disabilities. DFI, through its policy work, has continued to develop and promote the interests of disability in the development and delivery of social policy, and has acted as an advocate for the disability sector at local, regional, national and European levels.2

2 A list of the organisations, groups and structures through which this was promoted in 2006 are listed on p.19

There are ongoing pressures for all voluntary organisations in the sector to ensure that people with disabilities and their families have access to appropriate services and supports. In this environment our member organisations are more than simply a collection of service providers. These organisations are `the first advocates' for people with disabilities and their families, and have played a key role in the development and delivery of socio-economic policy.

The need to support our organisations to understand the importance of the policy development process, and the need to actively and effectively engage in this process, has never been so great. The effects of the ongoing Health Reform Programme on relationships between the disability sector and the Health Service Executive, and on the development of supports and services to people with disabilities, continues to be reflected in the tensions experienced by our member organisations. Simultaneously, the National Disability Strategy and the new Social Partnership Agreement, which include a range of disability specific developments and an unprecedented commitment to the policy of mainstreaming, will have significant implications for the disability sector over the next decade. To successfully realise these commitments and opportunities, DFI advocates for, and supports its organisations to engage in this changing policy environment.

In terms of policy developments for 2006, obvious areas of major focus were the Social Partnership negotiation process for 'Towards 2016', and the National Disability Strategy, in particular the Sectoral Plans, the Citizens Information Bill 2006 (formerly Comhairle Amendment Bill 2004), and Part 2 of the Disability Act. Other priorities included the continuing Health Service Reform Programme, the development of protocols for the funding of our sector, and the estimates and budgetary processes.

DFI has continued to pay attention to a number of key determinants of disadvantage as experienced by people with disabilities. In particular, we have initiated some research, jointly with Comhairle (now the Citizens Information Board), on the housing and accommodation needs of people with disabilities. Through representation on the FÁS Regional Advisory Committees and the National Council for Special Education Consultative Forum, DFI works to include the needs of people with disabilities in the planning and delivery of specialist and mainstream services.

DFI has worked to influence Government policy in key areas, through its membership of, and participation in, Social Partnership, the NDS, and other fora:

  • Infrastructure of care
  • Adults with significant disabilities
  • Housing and accommodation for people with disabilities
  • Mental Health
  • Community Employment mainstreaming
  • Income supports for people with disabilities
  • Cost of disability
  • Resourcing voluntary disability organisations
  • Children as carers
  • Health information deficit for people with disabilities
  • Primary Care
  • Education, Training and Employment
  • Older people

Social Partnership

Through its representation of the disability interest on the Community and Voluntary Pillar of the Social Partnership process, DFI played a key role in negotiating the new Agreement, 'Towards 2016'. Throughout this process DFI's proposals kept disability at the top of the agenda. 'Towards 2016', was ratified by the DFI Board on 27th June 2006.

A key aspect of 'Towards 2016' is the introduction of the 'Lifecycle Approach', which places the person at the centre of the social policy agenda. The key lifecycle phases include children, people of working age, older people and people with disabilities. The agreement sets out the key goals, strategies, and commitments across each phase of the lifecycle.

Commitments relating primarily to people with disabilities are contained in Section 33 of the Agreement.

Chapter 3 of 'Towards 2016' opens with the statement that:

'The key lifecycle stages are Children, People of Working Age, Older People and People with Disabilities (who, in accordance with the policy of mainstreaming, will benefit from measures at all stages of the lifecycle).'

This ensures that the issue of disability is present throughout the lifecycle. Consequently, where relevant, commitments relating to children, people of working age and older people, are also inclusive of people with disabilities. DFI pressed to have this mainstreaming commitment included in 'Towards 2016', and believes that this will play a key role in progressing the mainstreaming agenda.

The NDS is central to the programme of work under 'Towards 2016'. The commitments contained in the NDS are reflected in 'Towards 2016' and will ensure the delivery of an Ireland in which people with disabilities have the opportunity to live a full life, with their families, as part of their local communities and the wider Irish society.

National Disability Strategy

The Disability Act 2006, the six Sectoral Plans, multi-annual funding package, and Citizens Information Bill 2006, together comprise the NDS. Significant developments occurred during the year, in particular the embedding in 'Towards 2016' of commitments contained in the NDS. DFI worked consistently to advance the implementation of the NDS. One of the key issues for DFI in the Social Partnership negotiations was the securing of implementation mechanisms to ensure that all commitments under the NDS are honoured.

In November 2006, the National Disability Strategy Stakeholders Monitoring Group was established by Government for a three-year term. The Group comprises the Disability Stakeholders Group, representing the disability sector, and the Senior Officials Group on Disability. This latter Group is made up of officials representing the six Government Departments responsible for implementing Sectoral Plans, and a number of other Departments, including the Departments of Finance, and Education and Science. The purpose of the Group is to monitor progress of the overall implementation of the NDS, building on the monitoring and review procedures already in place in each of the six Sectoral Plans. The National Disability Strategy

Stakeholders Monitoring Group is chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and will meet biannually.

Sectoral Plans

Through its membership of the Disability Legislation Consultation Group (DLCG), now the Disability Stakeholder Group, DFI worked with the Government Departments and the Department of the Taoiseach to develop the strategic scope and content of the Sectoral Plans. In addition, DFI made submissions and presentations to both houses of the Oireachtas. The Sectoral Plans were approved in October 2006, and DFI then commenced working towards their full implementation.

Citizens Information Bill 2006

In October, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs commenced the progress of the Citizens Information Bill through the Oireachtas. DFI made a number of submissions, independently, and as a member of the DLCG, to senior Department officials and to both houses of the Oireachtas. DFI welcomed the establishment of the Personal Advocacy Service (PAS) for people with disabilities under the Bill, and we continue to focus on this as part of our interest in wider advocacy issues.

Independent Needs Assessment

Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 provides for an Independent Needs Assessment (INA). In May, DFI attended a Consultation Meeting, arranged by the Department of Health and Children, in relation to the INA. This was followed by a submission to the Department of Health and Children and the HSE. This submission reflected DFI's continuing focus on the importance of mainstreaming across all public health services and publicly funded projects, while simultaneously advocating for increased availability and access to specialist services.

Budget 2007 Campaign

In keeping with an earlier commitment, DFI actively pursued the same key budgetary issues for Budget 2007. These issues were identified and selected for their potential to make a significant difference in the everyday lives of people with disabilities and covered the following areas:

  • Income
  • Care in the Community
  • Capacity Building for Organisations

The DFI 2007 Pre Budget Submission, 'Significant Commitments Demand Significant Delivery', was launched on October 5th.

Despite significant investment made to improve the income of people with disabilities, the Estimates and Budget 2007 have been hugely disappointing, and failed to deliver the funding necessary to meet the commitments set out in 'Towards 2016'. The Budget failed to go beyond the already planned 2007 drawdown of the multi annual funding programme. It did not fully address funding shortfalls in current service provision by voluntary disability organisations.

Health Service Reform

DFI continued to engage with the Department of Health and Children and the HSE during 2006 within the context of the Reform Programme. However, two years on from the establishment of the HSE and despite our continued and concentrated engagement, many of the practical issues concerning member organisations have still not been resolved. DFI will continue to challenge the Department of Health and Children and the HSE to ensure that our members' best interests are served through the Reform Programme.

DFI continues to work with member organisations to facilitate an understanding of the changing structures and their implications. In this respect DFI has an effective and useful resource available in the form of our Support Officers who work regionally, locally and nationally to provide critical support, information and insights relating to the development of services.

Work continues on developing the relationship between the HSE and the broader voluntary disability sector. The nature of this relationship must, however, reflect the significant developments within the HSE and in the policy environment, mainly arising from Sections 38 and 39 of the Health Act 2004.

National Economic & Social Forum

DFI has represented the disability interest on the National Economic Launch of DFI Pre-Budget Submission 2007, 'Significant Commitments Demand Significant Delivery' 17 and Social Forum (NESF) since the Forum's inception in 1993. In 2006 DFI participated on the Management Committee of the NESF as a representative of the Community and Voluntary Strand of Social Partnership.

The NESF work programme for 2006 included 'Mental Health and Social Inclusion' and 'Delivery of Quality Public Services'. DFI had pressed for both of these topics to be included in the work programme since the beginning of this term of the Forum, and was one of the three Community and Voluntary Strand representatives on each of these project teams. The work of the 'Delivery of Quality Public Services' project team is now concluded, and the Report has been published.The Mental Health and Social Inclusion work commenced in September 2006, and is due for completion in mid-2007, when its Report will be published.

DFI also participated in the NESF Project Team on 'Care for Older People'. Given the high overlap between disability and age, it is important that services and funding mechanisms for these two groups are dovetailed appropriately.

In February 2006 DFI participated in the NESF National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) Social Inclusion Forum. This yearly meeting provides an important opportunity to have perspectives and experiences on key policies and implementation issues highlighted. The overall focus of the Forum in 2006 was on the needs of specific vulnerable groups.

National Economic and Social Council

Through its membership of the Community and Voluntary Pillar, DFI has a voice on NESC. Through its Social Partnership participation, DFI has worked to influence a better understanding of the key policy and structural changes needed.

National Advisory Group (Independent Living)

DFI provided a facilitative and supporting structure to the work of the National Advisory Group (NAG). The group continued to advance its objective of collaborative working to realise choice, rights and empowerment for Leaders across all CILs throughout Ireland. The involvement of FÁS, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, Citizens Information Board (formerly Comhairle), alongside CILs and other disability representative organisations, created a forum for discussion, debate, and learning that will be 18 a foundation for informed policy change and positive action.

DFI Working Groups

A number of DFI working groups were convened during the year, and these have been found to be a useful method of collaborative working, providing inter-organisational insights on particular topics.


The DFI Housing Sub Group met regularly throughout the year and focused on networking between organisations and receiving information updates on current relevant policy and practice from key stakeholders. These included the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) and the NDA. Towards the end of 2006 much of the work of the group was focused on supporting the development of the Joint DFI/Comhairle Report on Housing, which provided the impetus for the initiation of an accommodation study, to be completed in 2007. Otherwise this Working Group supported the DFI input to the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government Sectoral Plan.

Adults with Significant Disabilities

The DFI Working Group continued to meet regularly and to campaign for increased funding for adults with significant disabilities. The Group focused on positioning this work within the context of relevant policy opportunities, such as Social Partnership, budget campaign and the National Disability Strategy.

Mental Health Working Group

The expanded DFI Mental Health Working Group continued to meet in 2006. The Group had as the focus of its work the publication in January 2006 of the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health - 'A Vision for Change'. This Report now forms Government policy on Mental Health and recommends a series of fundamental reforms in the planning and delivery of mental health services in Ireland over the next seven to ten years. At the request of the Group, DFI undertook the task of developing a Position Paper on the Report, to be agreed by the Group participants. The Paper was nearing completion at the end of 2006.

Research Projects

DFI participated in a number of research projects during the year.

Mainstreaming for Me Project

The Mainstreaming for Me Project, funded by the Dormant Accounts Disbursement Fund, commenced in 2005. In the final phase of the project in 2006 meetings were held to gain feedback from policy makers and member organisations. The first of these took place in May for representatives of the Sectoral Plan Government Departments, and for the senior policy and development staff from the NDA, Comhairle, FÁS and the HSE. The second, a final meeting for CEOs of DFI member organisations, was held in June.

The recommendations from the regional meetings attended by people with disabilities and service providers were presented, and participants explored the complexities of cross agency cooperation and development. Recommendations arising from all of the meetings will be presented in a final report in 2007.

European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities

DFI is a member of The European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), and during the year, attended the General Assembly, Board, and Policy Impact Group meetings. Through the EASPD, DFI connects with and seeks to influence the Europe wide context. Over the past year DFI has continued to focus on, amongst other issues, the Working Time Directive, Social and Health Services of General Interest, the Disability Action Plan of the Council of Europe, and social service provision in the EU.

Other Fora

DFI has continued to contribute to public policy through various fora

  • Centre for Early Childcare Education and Development (cecde)
  • Citizens Information Board (formerly Comhairle)
  • Community and Voluntary Pillar of Social Partnership
  • Community Development Programmes
  • ComReg - Forum on Services for People with Disabilities
  • Disability Stakeholders Group (DSG)
  • Disability Legislation Consultation Group (DLCG)
  • Disability Consultative Groups within Government Departments / Agencies
  • Department of Health and Children National Health Strategy Consultative Forum
  • Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency (DESSA)
  • Enhancing Disability Services (EDS) Funded Projects
  • Equality Authority
  • FÁS Regional Advisory Committees
  • Health Service Executive Consultative Group on Care for Older People
  • Health Service Executive Regional Physical and Sensory Disability Co-Ordinating Committees
  • ICTU Disability Liaison Committee
  • Irish Charities Tax Reform Group (ICTRG)
  • Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH)
  • Lisbon Strategy
  • Local Government Structures
  • National Council for Special Education Consultative Forum
  • National Disability Authority (NDA)
  • National Disability Strategy Stakeholders Monitoring Group
  • National Economic and Social Forum (NESF)
  • National Economic and Social Council (NESC)
  • National Physical and Sensory Disability Database Committee
  • Partnership Boards
  • Regional Support Agencies
  • The Wheel

Supporting Organisations

DFI provides a wide range of supports to member organisations. These supports relate to the internal workings of these organisations, and facilitating the development of an understanding of the changes in Government policy that affect them. In practice this includes promoting partnership across the sector and supporting the executive and boards of directors to strengthen their capacity and governance structures.

There is a distinctive policy implementation framework available through the various aspects of the National Disability Strategy and 'Towards 2016'. There is no such framework in relation to supporting and developing the capacity of organisations, and that is unfortunate.

DFI commenced research into the needs of our members in order to identify the areas in which they need greater support. The findings of this research are critical in terms of leading DFI's response to supporting organisations through the greatly changed policy environment arising out of the National Disability Strategy, 'Towards 2016', and Health Service Reform.

The need for investment in capacity building for voluntary disability organisations was highlighted in the 'Comptroller and Auditor General Report on Value for Money Examination - Provision of Disability Services by Non-Profit Organisations'. The Report noted that:

'The better functioning of volunteer boards in their internal oversight and governance roles and in their external inter-organisational bridging roles may require investment in the upskilling of volunteer board members. This may be the case particularly in situations where the organisation is developing a greater role in State funded service delivery.' (P. 39).

There is a dearth of appropriate training and ongoing support for disability organisations. DFI has targeted other key bodies in order to build greater cohesion between our member organisations and agencies that can offer them support and training to build their organisational capacity. We have worked with Boardmatch, The Wheel, Carmichael Centre, Comhairle, Volunteering Centres Ireland and the HSE, amongst others, and encouraged and facilitated our member organisations to access training and supports services.

SKILL Programme

The SKILL Programme, 'Securing Knowledge Intra Lifelong Learning', aims to increase the education, training and development of support staff and their supervisors in health and personal social services. In 2006 DFI secured a quota of placements for its member organisations. The role of DFI within the project is to encourage organisations to become involved and to provide the necessary supports to these organisations, their line management and staff. An internal DFISKILL Programme Steering Group has been established for the duration of the project. This group will provide a voice within DFI for the SKILL Programme training as well as other training interests.

Chairpersons as Effective Leaders Project

With the support of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the involvement of fourteen member organisations, DFI undertook a project, entitled 'Chairpersons as Effective Leaders', which seeks to identify and improve the supports needed to enhance the governance function within organisations. An interim report was made available to participants, and a final Report will be presented in 2007.


There are a wide range of representative structures at local and regional level. These include the Community Platforms, Strategic Policy Committees, Social Inclusion Measures Groups, Barcelona Committees, County Development Boards, Local Authorities, Partnership Companies, Community Support 22 Agencies, Family Resource Centres and Community Development Projects. DFI has worked to ensure that the disability sector is adequately represented within these structures and we have supported representatives from our organisations on many local and regional committees, offering them a feedback mechanism to the wider disability sector.

DFI is also represented on each of the ten Health Service Executive Regional Physical and Sensory Co-Ordinating Committees. These provide a mechanism for the development of services and for the setting of priorities at regional level. We continued to represent over eighty organisations on each of these Committees. DFI continued to influence the ongoing review of the Co-Ordinating Committee structure in the context of Health Service Reform.

Supporting Organisations to Understand the Policy Context

DFI works to identify the interconnectedness between policy issues and the day-to-day issues that arise for disability organisations by actively gathering information which feeds into policy work, and by acting as a conduit for the dissemination of information on policy developments to the disability sector. This is done most frequently through platform meetings, the DFI Newsletter and activity events, and involves assisting disability organisations to understand the implications of changes in Government policy and how they will affect their own organisation and those they represent.

We continued to support organisations to understand how new national policy changes affect them, specifically in the context of the NDS and.


A total of thirty Platform meetings were held around the country at which DFI Support Officers met with representatives of disability organisations. The Platforms enable us to provide organisations with the most up to date information on the issues that affect them, now, and into the future. Platform meetings also provide a forum for organisations to meet, network and share views on topics of concern. Furthermore, they also support organisations in exploring avenues of collaboration. A range of issues were covered at these meetings including:

  • Access to Mainstream Services
  • Accommodation & Respite
  • Consultation for Community Therapy Services
  • Corporate Health Checks
  • Counselling Seminar
  • National Disability Strategy
    • Disability Act 2005 -
      • Section 2 'Independent Assessment of Need' -
      • Sectoral Plans
    • Citizens Information Bill 2006
  • FÁS Regional Networks for People with Disabilities
  • Health Service Reform
  • Infection Control
  • Local Authority Housing
  • Mental Health
  • National Physical & Sensory Disability Database
  • Neurological Issues
  • Social Partnership
  • The Wheel's Services

Capacity Building Events for Organisations

To respond to the wide spectrum of the needs of its members, DFI held a range of capacity building events to support organisations. Issues covered included:

  • Developing Volunteering Policies
  • Employment Rights and the Role of the Employer
  • HANDLE Therapy Method for Neurological Conditions
  • Health and Safety
  • Human Resources
  • Public Relations and Communications
  • Project Management
  • Strategic and Operational Planning

Collaborative Projects

DFI actively supports organisations in collaborative work, at both national, regional and local level. The following are examples of this work:

  • The Inishowen Multipurpose Centre Group was set up to establish a resource centre to be used by a wide range of disability and community sector organisations. DFI was involved in a successful application to the EDS fund to employ project management staff.
  • The Cork Common Ground Centre aims to create a civic space in which the quality voluntary sector services in Cork will be enhanced.
  • The MOSAIC Project seeks to develop a multi-agency resource centre along with associated community and commercial space in Castlebar.
  • The National Advisory Group (Independent Living), gives advice and guidance to the planning and implementation functions of CILs.
  • The DFI Housing Group focused on networking between organisations and receiving information updates on relevant policy and practice from key stakeholders, including 24 the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) and the National Disability Authority (NDA).
  • The DFI Adults with Significant Disabilities Group continued to campaign collectively for increased funding. The group focused on positioning this work within the context of relevant policy opportunities.
  • The DFI Mental Health Group had as its focus the implementation of the key recommendations in the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health, 'A Vision for Change' (2006).

DFI Governance Seminar

The DFI Seminar on the topic of 'Challenges for Voluntary Disability Organisations in a Rapidly Changing Environment' took place on 9th May in Dublin. Bringing about change and the ability of organisations to shape and respond to change will continue to challenge voluntary disability organisations over the coming years. The Seminar addressed the challenges and opportunities presented to organisations.

Rory O'Donnell, of NESC, presented a paper entitled 'Following Through on the Implementation of the National Disability Strategy: Challenges and Opportunities for the Voluntary Disability Sector'.

Aidan Horan, Institute of Public Administration (IPA), spoke on the topic 'From Organisational Development to Service Delivery', and Michael Scanlan, Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children, discussed 'The Role and Challenge for Voluntary Disability Organisations within the Reformed Health Service'.

Governance is an important issue for DFI and has been the focus of DFI's Annual Seminar in recent years, as well as the 'Chairs as Effective Leaders' Project, which is detailed earlier in this Report.

DFI Information Services

DFI produced policy related materials and instruments and prepared focused reports and submissions, referred to throughout this Review. Information gathered by DFI is crucial in planning and guiding future work. Information services provided by DFI continue to be a key support to organisations. DFI responded to ongoing queries from organisations and groups and these queries often led to other information and supports being provided. This service also supported the broad community and voluntary sector, the statutory sector and other sectors and agencies. Two specific areas in relation to the DFI Information Services were:

  • NEWSLETTER The DFI Newsletter continues to be produced monthly and has a circulation in excess of 1,700. The Newsletter is also available on the DFI website. This is an important contact and reference point for organisations, facilitating cross communication and collaborative work.
  • WEBSITE The DFI website is a key means of disseminating information. During 2006 the website was in the process of being updated and expanded to provide comprehensive information and updates on policy developments, including the National Disability Strategy and 'Towards 2016'. The website also provides access to DFI publications, Newsletter, and other relevant documents.

DFI Internal Capacity Building

The ability of DFI to respond to, and support, its member organisations, and other statutory and non-statutory bodies is largely dependent on its own internal capacity.

As noted earlier in the Chief Executive Officer's Overview, significant staff changes occurred during the year. Two senior staff members, Aisling Walsh, Senior Executive Officer, Policy and Research, and Kieran Loughran, Director, Management Resource Service, moved on from DFI. Allen Dunne, Senior Executive Officer Operational, took on the role of Deputy CEO, and Joanne McCarthy, Support Officer, was promoted to Senior Executive Officer, Policy and Research. Also in 2006 five new staff members came on board at various levels of the organisation. Joe Lynch took up the post of Corporate Service Executive, Denis Cadogan was appointed as ICT Manager, Joan O'Donnell and Louise McCann were assigned as Support Officers for Meath, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan, and Dublin South City, Dublin South West, Kildare / West Wicklow respectively. Eleanor Scanlan was engaged as a member of the support staff team in an administrative role.

DFI plans its work within the structure of Strategic, Operational and Annual Plans. To further develop our skills in making our plans operational, we held a two-day training course for all staff on the subject of 'Project Management'.

Refurbishment work in Fumbally Court commenced in December to enhance DFI's office capacity to accommodate new staff and the efficiency of the organisation. Key to these changes has been the improved ICT capacity of DFI.

Information and Communications Technology

The central focus in ICT was to begin rolling out the current DFIICT strategy. The main areas in this process included stabilisation of current se