2008 Annual Review

Issued on February 21 2013

Annual Review 2008


Chairperson”s Report

The year under review has seen DFI move from dealing with changes and developments in an environment which we considered to be largely stable, even allowing for a slowdown in growth, to responding to an environment, which has been shaken, not just domestically, but against the background of a global economic crisis. That has been, and still is, difficult for all of us to come to terms with.

What we are sure about is that our role is more important than ever. We must keep the National Disability Strategy (NDS) alive and to the fore. We must support our organisations to do that in their day to day work. As we reached the close of the year we were addressing the issues of how best to make our organisations and their work more relevant in the midst of an ever changing and ever deepening crisis.

We kept within the overall thrust of our work programme. This was to provide supports and services to our member organisations and to deepen the commitment to the delivery of the NDS. It also involved providing leadership and coherence to our sector through expanding our work with other agencies and entities, building on the 2007 collaboration project, and finally, continuing to strengthen and develop our own internal organisational capacity. Through this process we became more conscious of the need to alter and reposition our operations in a fast changing and confusing environment. This became the focus of our work as the year ended, and we developed our 2009 Annual Plan with that firmly in mind.

I will now focus on internal DFI operational and governance matters, leaving other areas for specific comment by the CEO and the review in general.

DFI strengthened its own internal capacity by developing staff working practices, management information systems, and reporting on progress from staff level through to Board and National Council. The Board renewed and updated membership criteria and expectations during the year. It also established a category of membership to encourage engagement by mainstream organisations. Three National Council meetings were held during the year, as well as the Annual General Meeting, at which the Board reported on the implementation of our planning. This was a critical development which will be important for us to build on. Another important governance development has been the programme of work to develop a Board governance manual. We have also recently decided to undergo the Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations (PQASSO) quality assurance system within DFI.

Work progressed in relation to our longstanding intention to purchase office premises and simultaneously to have improved capacity for meeting and working with our member organisations and other stakeholders. We were at the stage of considering the financial and legal aspects of an offer when we had to postpone the initiative towards the end of the year. We are conscious that our present facilities are not adequate for the needs that exist for working with our organisations and we see these needs growing in the current climate. This matter continues to be actively under consideration by the Board.

While this review concentrates on 2008, I want to specifically comment on the current crisis that our State is in, specifically in the context of DFI and the disability sector, and to briefly set out the approach that the Board has taken. This approach has been developing for some time now, and even more so since the end of December 2008. A meeting of the National Council was held in March 2009 at which the Board presented its 2009 Annual Plan, a plan that was agreed at its January meeting. In agreeing that plan the Board asked the CEO to give further consideration to the need to have the plan “implemented firmly within the context of the deteriorating economic outlook”, and to report back to the Board. In February the Board agreed that

“DFI needs to simultaneously focus in a number of directions. On the one hand, it must ensure that it remains close and relevant to its membership, while at the same time needing to concentrate on maintaining its influence on how the Government and the HSE, in particular, but not exclusively, make decisions that affect the lives of and services for disabled people over the next five to ten years”.

Furthermore, the Board took the view, in agreeing the 2009 Plan, that they will not be operating in 2009, and beyond, in the way that has become normal in past years.

“How we prioritise our work and how we engage with our members and other stakeholders will be significantly changed to meet the requirements of the times we are in and that we expect to be in for some time”.

At our April Board meeting we reviewed progress for the first quarter in light of the ever deepening crisis, and the implications of the recent Budget and other developments within Government and the social partnership arena. This provided an opportunity to do a risk assessment of DFI”s fitness and orientation within the wider environment. From that we identified a number of issues, including our funding position and capacity, maintaining and winning the confidence of our organisations and the sector, ensuring the NDS is not jettisoned and that decisions are not made which put back progress towards mainstreaming. We identified as a grave and overarching risk that Ireland would come out of the recession without confidence, morale or basic capacity, and infrastructure still available to move on the implementation of the NDS. It is on the basis of this assessment that we are progressing our work.

Furthermore there has developed a strong and interactive planning cycle in DFI in recent years which engages staff, Board and National Council. This is based on the vision and optimism implicit in the three strategic priorities set out in our Strategic Plan. Having developed the skills of planning towards such an ambitious vision in economically good times, we realise now how valuable it is to have, and to further use this vision, in these difficult times. This is a key area of Board work, along with deepening our governance structures and processes, and valuing the reputation that DFI has gained for the focus and quality of its contribution to providing leadership and support to the voluntary disability sector in relation to the implementation of the NDS.

Before I conclude, I want to thank my fellow Directors and particularly to acknowledge the support that the Vice Chairperson, Paul Ledwidge, and the Honorary Treasurer, Niall Keane, have given to me this year. Apart from preparation for, and attendance at, Board meetings, the Directors have also reported to the National Council through its meetings and participated on two Board sub committees dealing with property purchase and the development of the governance manual. As Directors of DFI we are all conscious of our obligation to have regard for the well being of the Federation and to carefully mind its interests on behalf of you, the members of the company. During the year we welcomed new Directors to the Board namely Don Bailey, Judy Windle and Anne Coffey and their service and perspectives are much appreciated.

DFI is also well served by many people from our membership organisations, and beyond, who actively engage in work to support the objectives of the Federation.

I also wish to acknowledge and thank John and the committed staff team within DFI. We depend on their professionalism and dedication to support the governance of the organisation and to move on the work. We all value and appreciate their positive approach to what is ever more critical and challenging work.

Finally, I want to reassure each member organisation, and all disabled people, their families and carers, that DFI knows what it must do above everything else. It must, and it will, keep hope alive. Hope will be the cornerstone of this approach, but it is a hope supported by strong analysis and planning matched by hard work that invites and encourages all stakeholders to sustain and develop the vision and goals of the NDS. This will be the approach and attitude of DFI throughout this recession.

Geraldine Clare

Chief Executive Officer”s Overview

As the Chairperson has remarked, we found ourselves, particularly towards the latter half of the year, re-evaluating how we would adjust to the developing recession and setting out how this readjustment has happened in the early months of 2009.

I want to briefly deal with the major developments across each of our four objectives conscious that there is greater detail in the body of the review.

Supports and services to our member organisations were greatly enhanced during the year with the appointment of a staff member to exclusively focus on this area, and in that way to consolidate much of the valuable work already being carried out by other Support Officers. The development of organisational health checks, further implementation of the SKILL Training Programme, garda vetting procedures and the introduction of quality assurance systems in organisations were all part of these developments.

Policy implementation revolved around progressing the implementation of the National Disability Strategy. Health and personal social services continued to be key elements of this work. We worked closely with other disability organisations through the Disability Stakeholder Group, and used the opportunities afforded by our participation in the social partnership process. The review of the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, was an important area of this work throughout the year.

Moving to our role in building a national platform which gives leadership and coherence to the sector, it is fair to say that we have continued to be conscious that our work in the above areas guides us in this regard. We continued to develop and consolidate relationships with key disability and other agencies and entities, and in so doing brought more depth and resources to the work, mainly by sharing work with others in an organised way.

We continued to build key corporate services areas such as finance and human resources. We introduced a staff handbook and considerable work has been undertaken to reduce costs. This has included significant work to stress test our financial situation against a reduction in funding levels. We have advanced work to develop team working across the staff in parallel with improving our reliance on project management approaches ICT development during the year concentrated on back-up and disaster recovery and the website continues to be a focus to ensure AAA accessibility and universal design.

As the year ended we were planning and reconfiguring in order to secure our corporate future and our fitness as an organisation. Our work in supporting organisations was more and more around critical areas for our members, such as the service level and grant aid arrangements, organisational health checks and the quality assurance agenda. On the policy implementation front there has been sustained work in relation to protecting voluntary disability organisations through ongoing social partnership engagement and through the NDS structures. Throughout all of these areas our work and approach has been in keeping with our commitment to advance our national platform objective, to provide greater leadership and coherence to the sector.

The above gives a picture of what we were doing across our work areas. But what is the guiding approach and focus for our work within the context of the recession which shows no signs of ending?

DFI is clear that it needs to plan for the inevitable continuation of a deteriorating economic siutation for a number of years to come. We must stay close and relevant to our membership, and we must concentrate on influencing Government in order to protect and enhance the NDS. A multi-annual plan needs to be established showing how the NDS will be implemented, and which will have the full support of our sector and Government.

DFI has been improving its internal capacity over the past number of years, and its reputation has been growing as an authoritative and skilful resource to support the full inclusion of people with disabilities in Ireland. At the same time we never considered that we would be facing into the situation that confronts our State now and the challenges that are before us in order to sustain what has been achieved, and to make progress. We have developed a strong culture of forward planning, we have a competent staff team, improving internal capacity, governance systems a supports and services to our member organisations, and significant progress and expertise in working with other groups and agencies. It is reasonable to state that our reputation and credibility is strong.

The Chairperson has already set out the work that has recently been done to assist DFI in adapting to the changes in the economy and to develop our growing understanding of, and thinking in relation to, the recession, as we understood it towards the end of 2008. The principal overarching risk which has been identified by DFI, as expressed by the Chairperson, is that when Ireland comes out of the recession there will be neither the confidence nor morale, at one level, nor on another level, the basic capacity still available to move on the implementation of the NDS.

The current environment can be viewed as complex and rapidly changing. What we have to do is straightforward: we must keep hope alive and work for the delivery of the National Disability Strategy. This will be demanding and difficult, but it is our role and purpose.

Finally, I want 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 works 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 Geraldine Clare, Chairperson, for her sustained work and commitment during the year, and for her advice and support to me as CEO. I would also like to acknowledge and thank our Vice-Chairperson, Paul Ledwidge, and our Hon. Treasurer, Niall Keane, for their commitment and support. The Board members are also involved in reporting to the National Council and serving on Board sub committees dealing with premises purchase and development of the Board governance manual. 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.

It is also right that I acknowledge and thank our staff for ensuring that the work is carried out, and in doing so, to recognise their valuable input into developing the work and future of DFI. They individually and collectively pay a key role in enhancing the reputation of the organisation. As with staff in every organisation the latter part of the year brought unwelcome aspects and considerations to their work which unfortunately will be with us all for some time. The professional manner in which they have dealt with this changing situation is much appreciated by me.

John Dolan
Chief Executive Officer


Building a National Platform

The impact of disability is everywhere to be found, and so all elements of society must be involved in addressing the issue. DFI plays a key role in providing leadership and direction in encouraging a wide range of stakeholders to take on, and be more effective in, their responsibilities in relation to disability. This is what “Building a National Platform” is about.

In 2008, DFI achieved a number of positive outcomes and results in continuing to build a national platform around disability, and in bringing together voluntary disability organisations, and others, around common issues and concerns. From the perspective of its own membership, DFI has succeeded in growing its membership from 113 members and associates to 123 members and associates at the end of 2008.

In the context of building a national platform for disability and disability organisations, it is also encouraging that Memoranda of Understanding and other corporate relationships, already agreed with other umbrella organisations in the disability sector, namely the Not for Profit Business Association and the Neurological Alliance of Ireland, and in the broader community and voluntary sector, The Wheel, were developed and deepened. These strategic alliances are of assistance in defining the roles and functions of various organisations, including DFI, and the ways in which they can co-operate most effectively together in the best interests of disabled people in Ireland. Throughout the year there has been regular engagement with the Carmichael Centre, and agreement for both organisations to co-operate on a corporate level.

Participation in Towards 2016, the social partnership process, has also helped to build a national platform for disability and for disability organisations. The involvement of DFI, and other organisations committed to the development of services for disabled people, within the partnership process, along with the Review of Towards 2016, has helped to ensure that disability has remained at the core of partnership considerations.

The participation of the voluntary disability sector in the partnership process, through DFI representation, and the clear and explicit focus on disability within the partnership agreement, Towards 2016, has given an important boost to the voluntary disability sector, and has assisted in developing a national platform for disability in Ireland. The year saw DFI working specifically with a number of its colleague organisations in the Community and Voluntary Pillar Annual General Meeting 2008 of social partnership on issues such as income supports, health, access, and other issues around the lifecycle approach, particularly in relation to children, elderly people, employment and activation.

The development of a national platform has also been enhanced by the seminars and workshops organised by DFI, and by the research reports and newsletters produced by DFI. Invitations to DFI seminars and workshops and the distribution of DFI reports and newsletters are not confined to member organisations, and these activities provide DFI with opportunities to interact and engage with organisations outside its membership. At a broader level, it is considered important to create opportunities for people from different organisations to get to know each other. This process of relationship building is a major element in building a national platform around the issue of disability. We have continued to play a critical role as a member of the Disability Stakeholders” Group, which works with Government to monitor the National Disability Strategy, where we have taken the initiative on issues such as monitoring implementation of the long term goals and fighting the withdrawal of disability funding by the HSE. The latter area has also seen us active with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health.

We have been consistently active at Government, Oireachtas and departmental levels and with the political parties. We have also had a strong media presence throughout the year, setting out the key issues and concerns of the sector and this work has also stretched into our member organisations.

DFI continued to highlight issues which have an impact across the broad disability spectrum, such as the implementation of the National Disability Strategy, under-resourcing of organisations for current services, the introduction of the Cost of Disability Payment, and the need for enhanced organisational capacity support, all of which give practical expression to the continued development of the national platform.

We have for some years been seeking Government acknowledgement and support for enhancing the capacity and effectiveness of organisations in our sector to better advance the National Disability Strategy. It is interesting to note that as the recession commenced Government has become vocal in relation to efficiency, effectiveness and value for money within voluntary disability organisations. DFI has done substantial work in those areas over previous years, most notably through its conference on collaboration which was held in 2007, demonstrating our commitment, leadership and track record in this matter.

The past year has shown in a practical way, as never before, the value of having the process of building a national platform as a strategic objective. At a time of crisis, and particularly where there is a critical eye being focused on our sector, it is reassuring to know that we have relationships with other key organisations through which we respond to the problems ahead, and that the body of corporate and collaborative work pre-dated recent Government concerns, often expressed as there being “too many voluntary disability organisations”.

As the year ended, there was a growing awareness of the severity of the recession and the possible negative impact on those whom we serve, people with disabilities. Through all of this DFI has consistently made the point, and sought to work with others on this, that in its Programme for Government, Government has given a commitment, a commitment that DFI worked to secure, to continue to prioritise disability. This is a vital part of the necessary social infrastructure, and more particularly so during a recession.

Policy Developments

During 2008 DFI worked to secure the full implementation of the National Disability Strategy. DFI”s work on the review of the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, early in 2008, the preparation and presentation of a DFI position paper on the funding needs of voluntary disability organisations to the Joint Oireachtas Committee of Health, and preparations for Budget 2009, provided the initial focus for this work. As the year progressed there was an increasing need to respond to the impact on the voluntary disability sector of the rapidly deepening economic crisis. Rather than working solely to secure developments in disability services, we prioritised the need to protect disability interests in the face of a rapid downturn in the public finances.

Social Partnership

DFI has continued to participate in the many structures and mechanisms established for the delivery of the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016. This has included outlining DFI”s priorities for Activation in a position paper, participating on the NESF and NESC Management Committees, participating in the Housing Forum in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and the Department of Health and Children Consultative Forum.

In addition, there has been ongoing work in relation to the review of Towards 2016. This has included presentations at bilateral meetings with Government and with the other social partners, outlining key priority areas and responding to drafts of the review document. DFI also assumed the role of providing secretariat support to the Community and Voluntary Pillar towards the end of the year.

National Disability Strategy

DFI has continued to participate in the Disability Stakeholders” Group (DSG) and the bi-annual meetings of the NDS Stakeholders Monitoring Group. The DSG re-established sub-groups for each Government Department with a Sectoral Joanne McCarthy SEO Policy and Research Plan, focusing on the monitoring of activities across these Departments. The DSG has engaged with the Minister for Equality, Disability and Mental Health and senior officials to discuss the expected role of the Office for Equality, Disability and Mental Health. Issues of specific concern, such as the funding of voluntary disability organisations, the yearly reporting which identifies the level of unmet need in relation to part 2 of the Act, and the implementation of A Vision for Change, the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, were considered.

Health Issues

The HSE commenced the introduction of Service Level and Grant Aid Agreements between itself and all organisations that provide services funded by the HSE. The HSE started the process with voluntary disability organisations. They distributed draft agreements and following significant work by DFI, the Not for Profit Business Association and the Federation of Voluntary Bodies, a second draft was distributed in December. We will continue to work with our members and the other disability umbrella bodies in relation to improving the agreements.

Estimates and Budget 2009 Campaign

The DFI Submission to the Estimates and Budget Campaign 2009 was published at the beginning of summer. We also made submissions to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children and to the Department of Social and Family Affairs on specific issues relating to the Budget, and DFI participated in the latter Department”s Pre Budget Forum, Meetings with party spokespersons were held in September, and other contacts at Government and political level were made around the same time in preparation for a Discussion Forum with our own member organisations and members of the Oireachtas on 2nd October. Towards the end of the year our efforts were concentrated on analysing the Budget and its implications for people with disabilities. This involved ongoing efforts to engage with members of the Oireachtas on the crisis in disability funding, providing ongoing information to our membership, a joint meeting with the Federation of Voluntary Bodies, and the Not for Profit Business Association, and also a meeting of DFI and the HSE to discuss the implementation of the 1% cuts to disability funding announced in the Budget.

Local Government

DFI has continued to lobby the Local Government Management Services Board (LGMSB) Disability Act Steering Committee to seek practical “Jan O”Sullivan, Labour Party, speaking at the launch of the DFI Pre-Budget Submission” implementation of the Sectoral Plan commitment that the County / City Development Board (CDB) process incorporates disability as a key theme. DFI met with Minister Michael Kitt from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to outline the importance of the proposed reforms of the CDB mechanism in relation to the inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream public services. DFI also made a presentation to a conference for local authority members organised by the LGMSB Disability Act Steering Committee. It is expected that preparations for DFI”s Conference will further develop relationships in this area.

With Local Government Elections due in 2009, DFI worked to prepare for this event by organising a Conference to be held in spring 2009. In addition, we met with key policy workers from the main political parties in an effort to influence the focus of their election manifestos. DFI has focused on the consultation and representation arrangements established by local authorities.

In addition to Conference preparations, DFI Support Officers have engaged local authorities in events that bring council staff and disability organisations together.

We also continued to progress work on the housing needs of people with disabilities. The DFI Housing Report, The Right Living Space, was launched by the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley TD in the Mansion House in January. We continued to support the work of the DFI Housing Group and participated in the Consultative Committee on the Housing Strategy for People with Disabilities.

Charities Legislation

The Charities Bill 2007 passed through the fourth Stage in the Dáil and was discussed in the Seanad in November. In December it moved to Committee Stage. A number of recommendations made by DFI, the Wheel and other organisations within the voluntary sector were taken on board in the Dáil debate.

Social Inclusion

In addition to its work in social partnership and the NDS, National Disability Strategy, DFI continued to address the income deficits and social inclusion of people with disabilities. This work has included meeting with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to discuss key disability issues, including the introduction of a Cost of Disability Payment and the implementation of the Personal Advocacy Service. We have also focussed on the educational deficit experienced by people with disabilities through our participation on the Consultative Forum of the National Council for Special Education and in a Conference organised by the Combat Poverty Agency relating to educational disadvantage.

International Services Ireland and Dessa

In collaboration with DESSA and International Services Ireland, DFI was involved in the development of Putting the World to Rights, a publication relating the real-life stories of people with disabilities in Bolivia, Brazil and Burkina Faso, and outlining how the UN Convention on People with Disabilities is relevant to their lives. The publication was followed by a series of well-attended seminars throughout Ireland. The publication is also in use by the National Youth Council of Ireland in their youth leader training programme, and is being translated into five other languages by the International Labour organisation. The publication is available to download at www.is-ireland.ie

Dochas Disability and International Development Working Group

DFI continued as an active member of this group, which it helped to set up, and which comprised mainly of international development aid agencies. The focus of the group continues to be on ensuring that disability is firmly on the international development agenda. To that end, the group held the first Disability and International Development Week in June 2008, which was launched by the Minister for Overseas Development, Peter Power, TD. In addition, the group has made, or commented on, submissions to Irish Aid, highlighting the need for disability to be included in all policies.

European and International Policy

DFI has continued to monitor European and international policy developments and their influence on the Irish policy context through its membership of the European Association of Service Providers for People with Disabilities (EASPD) This has also supported DFI to develop its priorities for the European Election Campaign.

Submission to Government and Government Agencies

DFI made a number of Submissions to Government during the year, including:

  • National Carers” Strategy
  • Funding of Voluntary Disability
  • Organisations Estimates and Budget 2009
  • Review of the Disability Allowance
  • Broadcasting Guidelines
  • Sustainable Transport Strategy
  • Consultation Paper Review of Sectoral Plans
  • National Education Welfare Board
  • Charities Legislation
  • Position Paper on Activation


During 2008 DFI continued to prioritise the implementation of the National Disability Strategy. At the start of the year this work focused on the review of T16 and the ongoing monitoring of the many elements of the National Disability Strategy. As the year progressed, and the economic crisis deepened our focus moved towards protecting the disability interest and ensuring that the intent of the National Disability Strategy was not lost in the face of the national economic and social crises.

Supporting Organisations

During 2008 we worked to consolidate the supports we offer our member organisations. In addition to repsonding to member oganisations own queries we have used knowledge gained in recent years from responding to these to further develop supports in key areas for our members. The development of organisational health checks, further implementation of the SKILL Training Programme, garda vetting procedures and the introduction of quality assurance systems in organisations were all part of these developments.

Organisation Healthcheck

In response to the introduction of the Charities Bill, Service Level Agreements and the increasingly regulated environment generally, DFI successfully applied to the Department of Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs for funding to recruit a Support Officer - Support for Organisations, to work with and support member organisations, in the area of enhancing their capacity levels and governance standards. Following this appointment in July, a pilot project was conducted with three organisations in relation to their governance procedures.

The outcome of the pilot programme was the development of the “Organisation Healthcheck”, which covers four areas:

  • (1) Legal Matters;
  • (2) Board Issues;
  • (3) Staff & Volunteers;
  • (4) Policies & Procedures.

The “Organisation Healthcheck” is conducted together with the CEO, Chair and Board of participating organisations and they are supported throughout the process by their DFI Support Officer. The process concludes with a presentation of a report to the Board of the organisation, containing recommendations as appropriate, with an emphasis on sourcing supports to help address any deficits identified. To enhance our work in this area we reviewed a range quality assurance products to further assist organisations in developing their governance structures, and we have chosen the Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations (PQASSO).

Garda Vetting Project

A large number of DFI member organisations are experiencing difficulties in getting garda vetting for their staff and volunteers. DFI worked with the Gardaí and with the HSE in relation to the issue. After consulting with organisations, DFI developed a system whereby six organisations were identified to act as lead organisations to administer the garda vetting process for those in its network. Work is continuing on the development of these networks and to attain training from the Garda for the lead organisations.

Financial Guidelines - Charities Legislation

In co-operation with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CPA), DFI published guidelines on the financial implications of the Charities Legislation. Carmichael Centre will offer training based on the guidelines.


BoardMatch works to assist voluntary organisations to identify suitable board members. DFI worked with BoardMatch to offer support to our member organisations. In addition to routine supports we identified the need to work jointly on offering support for chairs of organisations and have commenced work on this.

Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups

The Carmichael Centre offers a range of supports to voluntary disability organisations. The centre also houses some of DFI”s member organisations. DFI worked with Carmichael Centre to encourage our members to participate in their programmes and to avail of their services.

The Wheel

The Wheel offers a range of supports to voluntary disability organisations and is represented in Social Partnership. DFI worked with The Wheel in relation to the drafting of Charities Legislation, the development of the Towards 2016 commitments to the community and voluntary sector, and to encourage members to avail of supports offered by The Wheel.

Human Resource Supports for Organisations

Member organisations often contact DFI with queries in relation to Human Resources. DFI has held initial discussions with Adare Human Resources Management, a company that works with a large number of voluntary organisations in relation to HR issues, to identify how they could offer a package of supports to DFI member organisations.

Training for Member Organisation Staff: SKILL Programme

The SKILL Training Programme, “Securing Knowledge Intra Lifelong Learning” is aimed at increasing the education, training and development of support staff and their supervisors in the Irish health and personal social services area. Over 500 staff from DFI Member Organisations have participated in the SKILL Project Training Programme to date. DFI completed research to evaluate its participation in the programme, entitled the “THE SKILL Experience”, and this was launched on the 2nd July. DFI”s role support and co-ordination for participating DFI members continues to grow. The DFISKILL Programme Steering Group was strengthened with regular meetings through the year. This group provides strategic advice and guidance to DFI”s work within the SKILL Training Programme. The DFISKILL Programme Training Strand was established in 2008 with work being progressed on the development of SKILL Programme to further incorporate the training needs of the DFI membership.

Chairpersons as Effective Leaders Project

The Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups and DFI jointly funded the re-printing of the very popular publication relating to the Chairpersons as Effective Leaders project. This coincided with the development of a training course based on the publication which was developed and delivered by Carmichael Centre.

DFI Platform and Activity Events

Platforms meetings are an opportunity for disability organisations to network and engage collectively in discussions around key issues affecting disability services at local and regional level. Platform meetings were held throughout the regions and covered a wide range of topics which included planning meetings, developing work plans, providing updates to organisations on policy developments, HSE issues, housing, future service delivery and funding issues. The Activity events aim to assist organisations to consider capacity issues within their own organisations, and included events on strategic planning, corporate enforcement, funding, and support for staff.

Collaborative Projects

DFI actively supports and participates in a wide range of collaborative projects and wherever possible we progress our work in a collaborative manner. Some examples of this work are listed in Appendix II. The main areas included work with local government, Social Inclusion Measures (SIMS) Groups, advocacy projects and shared accommodation projects. Government regularly calls for greater collaboration, co-operation, effectiveness and efficiencies in the voluntary disability sector. This is best achieved through supporting capacity building and co-ordination in the sector. The implementation of mainstream services for people with disabilities involves both statutory and voluntary organisations working more closely together. However, Government has yet to give coherent leadership in relation to supporting the voluntary disability sector to work in more collaborative ways.


DFI Internal Capacity

Building and Organisational Development

DFI continued to enhance its ability to deliver on its objectives in relation to supporting organisations, building a national platform, and influencing policy by successfully engaging in capacity building and organisational development, developing staff related supports and structures, and developing alliances and relationships. Considerable work was carried out to deepen our financial reporting to the Board. We also undertook to reduce costs and this included significant work to stress test our financial situation against a reduction in funding levels. Risk assessment and doing more with less was a key theme of 2008. The development of the Board governance manual continued during the year. A strong focus was around our financial situation and we worked with our funders to minimise the impact of cuts. We expect this work to increase in 2009 in light of the deteriorating economic environment. Knowledge and information management, along with developing our governance structure, formed a core part of our work during the year and will also be the main focus in 2009.

Finance & Risk Analyses

Developing a more forensic approach to our finance and budget was necessary in light of the 1% cut. We will continue to have a strong focus on our budget and finances in light of the downturn in the economy and DFI”s need to work with the HSE to make savings and secure funding. We have begun to further develop our financial systems to allow for better monitoring and scrutiny of our funding. The challenge of working with a financially fragmented HSE continues to be a significant resource drain on DFI. During the fourth quarter DFI carried out a risk analysis to ensure we could manage our way through this recession. All staff were informed of our current financial situation and we openly discussed the current environment and how we can plan our way out of it. This open communication will continue.

Premises Purchases

DFI also attempted to purchase its own premises to further allow for collaboration among its members and to offer more meeting space to members and staff. DFI is still committed to purchasing a premises and furthering its collaborative working approach. Denis Cadogan Corporate Services & ICT Manager


We changed our membership strands to allow for non disability and non voluntary organisations to work with DFI on furthering the disability agenda. There are three new categories of membership. These are are National Council Membership and General Membership for voluntary disability organisations and DFI Associates.

Operational Plan and Annual Plan

The DFI Annual Plan focused on helping to co-ordinate the work of DFI staff. Monitoring mechanisms for both the Operational and Annual Plans continue to grow and evolve, and a Project Plan was developed for reviewing the Annual Plan 2008 and for developing the Annual Plan 2009. The project planning approach has been used to implement a wide range of actions in the Annual Plan. We have also begun to use Microsoft Project as a tool to plan projects. This approach is growing and we expect it to further strengthen and focus our work around planning.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Work continued on DFI”s ICT infrastructure. The security and electronic mail systems have been reviewed, and virus protection was upgraded. Considerable research has been carried out on the usefulness of an Intranet for the organisation, and on the potential benefits of a Constituent Relationship Manager (CRM). Preparations also started for the migration of the ICT systems to the latest versions of Microsoft Office. Our use of ICT as an enabler has slowed this year due to a strong focus on external pressures rather than internal ones, particularly around information management. We plan to set up a Knowledge & Information Management Group to provide a strong focus on this area. This will ensure a clearer focus on our information resources and processes and how we can use ICT to improve the timely flow of relevant information through DFI.

Staff Structures and Changes

DFI continued to employ professional and skilled staff to ensure the provision of quality services. Current staff structures and deployment were reviewed to ensure the priorities were met. We employed two new staff this year. One was to progress the area of organisational capacity among members and the other was to replace a member of the support staff team.

Staff Handbook

The implementation of a staff handbook, incorporating a set of clear and comprehensive systems and procedures was introduced this year. The handbook is important in providing structure and guidance to all staff on DFI policies and current practices.

Staff Training

DFI continued to provide IT training around Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Project. Other staff training and attendance at seminars continued, with the purpose of providing skills in best practice models of operation and management practices, and updates on relevant developments in Ireland and internationally.

Board Governance

The sub committee progressed work a governance manual for Board members. The CEO commenced participation in a leadership training programme, Stronger Leaders, which is designed for CEOs in the voluntary sector. This has also involved participation by some members of the Board.

DFI Information Services

Information services provided by DFI continue to be a key support to organisations and a resource to promote collaboration. 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 the DFI website and the monthly Newsletter.


The DFI Newsletter continues to be produced monthly and has a wide circulation. The Newsletter is also available on the DFI website. This is an important contact and reference point for organisations, facilitating cross-communication and collaboration.


The DFI website continues to be a key method of dissemination of information to organisations. During 2008 we further developed the area of organisational development with help for members dealing with areas such as Capacity Building, Planning and Governance, ICT Resources and other useful information. The site is fast becoming the way DFI shares information with the wider community. Our statistics from the site tell us that the usage of the site continues to steadily grow and is now at a rate of approximately 4,500 visitors per month. We plan to take a fresh look at the site in 2009 due to its rapid growth in size

Board, Membership, Including National Council Member Organisations

Board 2008

  • Geraldine Clare Chairperson AWARE
  • Paul Ledwidge Vice Chairperson St. Michael”s House
  • Niall Keane Hon. Treasurer DeafHear.ie
  • Don Bailey (from May 2008) Vantastic Ltd
  • Kieran Loughran Headway Ireland
  • Mike Glynn Brainwave
  • Desmond Kenny National Council for the Blind of Ireland
  • Joe T Mooney Muscular Dystrophy Ireland
  • Maurice O”Connell Alzheimer Society of Ireland
  • Anne Winslow Multiple Sclerosis Ireland
  • Anne Coffey KARE
  • Judy Windle (from December 2008) Genetic & Rare Disorders Organisation

National Council Member Organisations 2008

  • Action for Mobility
  • Alzheimer Society of Ireland
  • APT
  • Arthritis Ireland
  • ASPIRE – Asperger Syndrome Association
  • Asthma Society of Ireland
  • BRAINWAVE – The Irish Epilepsy Association
  • BRÍ – Acquired Brain Injury Advocacy Assoc.
  • CASA – Caring and Sharing Association
  • Central Remedial Clinic
  • Centre for Independent Living Mayo
  • Centre for Independent Living Tipperary
  • Centre for Independent Living Carmichael House
  • Cheeverstown House Ltd
  • COPE Foundation
  • Co Roscommon Support Group for People with disabilities
  • Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland
  • DeafHear.ie
  • D.E.B.R.A. Ireland
  • Disabled Drivers Association
  • Disabled People of Clare
  • Doorway to Life Ltd
  • Down Syndrome Ireland
  • Dyslexia Association of Ireland
  • Enable Ireland
  • Fighting Blindness
  • Focus Ireland
  • Friedreich”s Ataxia Society Ireland
  • Genetic and Rare Disorders Organisation
  • HAIL Housing Association for Integrated Living
  • Headway Ireland
  • Huntington”s Disease Association of Ireland
  • Irish Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus
  • Irish Deaf Society
  • Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind
  • Irish Haemophilia Society
  • Irish Kidney Association
  • Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association
  • Irish Raynaud”s and Scleroderma Society
  • Irish Society for Autism
  • Irish Wheelchair Association
  • Jack and Jill Children”s Foundation
  • KARE
  • Leitrim Association of People with Disabilities
  • Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland
  • Muscular Dystrophy Ireland
  • National Council for the Blind of Ireland
  • National Federation of Arch Clubs
  • Neurofibromatosis Association of Ireland
  • North West MS Therapy Centre
  • Parkinson”s Association of Ireland
  • Peter Bradley Foundation
  • Post Polio Support Group
  • Praxis Care Group
  • Reach Ireland
  • Rehab Group
  • Royal Hospital Donnybrook
  • Schizophrenia Ireland
  • Shannon Community Workshops Ltd
  • Sophia Housing Association Ltd
  • Special Olympics Ireland
  • Spinal Injuries Ireland
  • St Catherine”s Association
  • St Gabriel”s School and Centre
  • St Michael”s House
  • Vantastic
  • Vergemount Housing Fellowship
  • Walkinstown Association
  • West Limerick Community Workshop
  • Western Care Association

Associate Member Organisations

  • Ability West
  • ACTS (Accessible Community Transport Southside)
  • Sullivan Centre
  • Arklow Disability Action Group
  • Bodywhys
  • Care Alliance Ireland
  • Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups
  • Centre for Independent Living Blanchardstown
  • Centre for Independent Living Carlow Centre for Independent Living Cork
  • Centre for Independent Living Dublin 7 Centre for Independent Living
  • Kilkenny Centre for Independent Living Galway
  • Centre for Independent Living Offaly
  • Centre for Independent Living Sligo
  • Centre for Independent Living Waterford
  • Ce