December 2009 Newsletter

Issued on December 6 2009

An Advocate for the Voluntary Disability Sector.
Supporting Organisations to Enable People with Disabilities

Cut Disability Services Now and People with Disabilities will Pay the Price for A Long Time into the Future

Difficult decisions nmust be made in Budget 2010. Government has informed us that a savings of €4bn is required in this and subsequent Budgets. The McCarthy report recommends savings of €50m from the funding given to voluntary agencies for disability services in the context of efficiencies and greater effectiveness measures that can be put in place over time. DFI is aware of the massive challenges facing the State and in particular our health services.

But further cuts made in haste now to services will impact on people with disabilities and their families immediately, and they will cost the health services greatly in the medium to long term. Due care must be paid to ensure that decisions made now do not irreversibly dilute services to people with disabilities.

The HSE is committed to expanding its community based supports; in relation to people with disabilities it already has a very valuable and complementary mechanism for achieving this through voluntary disability organisations. The funding given to these groups is matched with voluntary effort and fundraising and an ability to work within the health services and across voluntary groups and the State to address the often complex issues that effect and can compromise the health status of people with disabilities. In approaching the Budget it is critical that the value of what exists is recognised first, and that decisions in relation to the overall budget and the need for greater efficiencies and effectiveness are then made; all of this needs to be done in the context of, and must not compromise or pre-empt, the very significant Value for Money and Policy Review of Disability Services which is currently underway and which will be reporting next September.

John Dolan

Budget 2010 - A Threat to the Delivery of the National Disability Strategy

The Need to Protect Disability in Budget 2010

When making decisions it is critical that Government understand that the voluntary sector has had to absorb a series of funding cuts in disability services over recent years. The Comptroller and Auditor General 2007 Annual Report revealed that the HSE "saved" €53million by not spending funds voted for disability and mental health services. In 2008, a further €17 million of the Multi Annual Funding (MAF) commitment for that year was not spent. The Budget for 2009 allocated none of the €50 million that was due under MAF. In addition, funding to voluntary disability organisations was reduced by 3% in 2009, amounting to a loss of approximately €45 million. A specific commitment of €8.5 million to fund emergency places for people with disabilities in fact only yielded €3 million for the sector, with the rest diverted elsewhere in the HSE. In brief, disability services provided by the voluntary sector have already faced a shortfall of at least €170 million compared to what had been committed by Government.

Further cuts made in haste now to services will impact on people with disabilities and their families immediately, and they will cost the health services greatly in the medium to long term. Due care must be paid to ensure that decisions made now do not irreversibly dilute services to people with disabilities. In addition to providing front line services' many voluntary disability organisations play a key role as 'co-health workers', underpinning and bolstering the overall health status of people with disabilities. A large number of DFI member organisations provide services to people with disabilities (and their families) to assist them to live with their disabilities, access primary health services, avoid or slow down the progression of their condition, become informed about their disabilities and help to keep people from entering acute health services. Through working with other community and voluntary organisations and with other State agencies such as Local Authorities they play a practical and catalyst role in finding solutions in partnership with others. They assist in ameliorating the onset of other disabilities or conditions, working to underpin and promote the general health status of people and ensure the maximum outcomes for the person from the resources available. DFI is aware of the many challenges that these organisations face in relation to how services are delivered to people with disabilities and we are active in working with organisations on these issues.

The Impact of the Economic Downturn on DFI Member Organisations and the Services they Provide- A Preliminary Analysis of DFI Survey of its Membership

DFI completed a survey of its member organisations in the summer of 2009 to examine the impact of the current economic climate on the organisations, and the services that they provide to people with disabilities. Preliminary analysis of the survey findings has found that the majority of the DFI members who responded to the survey reported that they have been affected by the recession. In fact, three quarters reported that their organisation had been either 'very significantly' or 'significantly' affected by the economic downturn.

When probed further, DFI member organisation appeared to have been affected negatively in terms of their income as opposed to their services to people with disabilities. Chart 1 below shows that just over three quarters of respondents stated that the level of their organisations income has decreased in 2009 while over half (60%) reported their level of services has stayed the same and a further 23% said it had actually increased. This would suggest that to-date members have been able to absorb funding cuts without having to reduce service levels.

Table 1 below shows the extent to which organisations have experienced an increase or decrease in their level of non-statutory funding. It is clear that where this question was applicable, members found that their non-statutory income had decreased in 2009 compared to previous years. For instance, 35 out of 40 organisations who fundraised said that their income had declined over the last year and a further 22 out of 26 members reported the same trend in terms of philanthropic income.

Table 1 Extent to which Non-Statutory Income has Increased or Decreased in 2009 compared to previous year
 Non-Statutory Funding IncreasedNon-Statutory Funding Decreased
 Response PercentResponse CountResponse PercentResponse Count
Fundraised Income12%5 88% 35
Earned Income26%7 74% 20
Philanthropic Income15%4 92% 22
Corporate Sponsorship3%1 97% 33

It is not surprising to find that non-statutory funding has been negatively effected by the economic downturn. Initial analysis of our open ended questions suggest that the general public have 'less to give' while traditional corporate sponsors such as financial institutes have been hit very badly by this recession. Chart 2 below demonstrates how organisations have responded with over two thirds stating that they have increased their efforts to generate their total income in comparison to previous years. In light of previous findings discussed here it is therefore safe to say that despite the increasing efforts to raise income, DFI members have still reported a decline in total income, while at the same time have to date been able to absorb this without effecting services (Chart 2). This will not be possible in 2010 for many organisations however.

Impact on the Demand for the Organisation Service

The majority of the DFI member organisations who participated in the survey to-date have reported that their income, whether statutory or non-statutory has declined in 2009 compared to the previous year. It is therefore worth noting that over two thirds of organisations (72%) recorded that the demand for their service has actually increased this year. A further 24% said that the demand for their service has remained the same. This can be attributed to a number of reasons including the promotion of their own service, as well as the increasing needs of disabled clients as a result of the recession, but either way, organisations are having to deal with a growing demand for their service despite a decline in their total income.

Response to Service Delivery for People with Disabilities

DFI wanted to examine how the economic downturn is impacting on the organisations service delivery to people with disabilities. As already noted in Chart 1, the majority of respondents reported that their level of service to people with disabilities has remained the same. At the same time however, it is of interest to note the way in which service delivery has had to change or has been delayed as a result of loss of funding as demonstrated in Chart 3 below.

It can be clearly seen that the majority of organisations (65%) stated that they have not yet had to make direct cuts to services. This corresponds to findings from Chart 2 in a previous question. At the same time, evidence has shown that the way services are delivered and the development of new services have been affected. For instance, over half of the respondents stated that they have had to 'change the way their services are delivered'. Furthermore, just under two thirds have stated that they have had to 'freeze the development of existing services' which can have a significant impact on the services available to people with disabilities. A further 53% have delayed new service programmes in 2009 while over half of those who had planned capital projects had to delay them as a result of the economic downturn.

As this sample analysis clearly demonstrates DFI member organisations, and the services they provide to people with disabilities, are being adversely affected by the economic downturn. This is due in part to a decrease in statutory funding. It is also however notable that these organisations are also experiencing a decrease in non-statutory funding, and all at a time when the organisations are reporting an increase in need.

Disability service provision has experienced significant cuts, to the sum of €170 million, in recent years. Further cuts to disability services will have a devastating impact on the capacity of the sector to deliver much needed health and personal social services to people with disabilities. DFI is well aware of the massive economic challenges facing this State - and the protection of our health and personal social services as part of the economic recovery is paramount. We urge extreme caution on making hasty cuts to services now, which will cost the health services much more to rebuild in the years ahead. No decision taken now should dilute services to people with disabilities and damage a valuable community based support infrastructure which is now a critical element of the services to people with disabilities.


SKILL Programme Graduation Ceremonies 2009!

SKILL stands for Securing Knowledge Intra Lifelong Learning.

DFI would like to extend its congratulations to all staff in participating member organisations who graduated from the SKILL Programme Training Programme during the month of November. The Graduations for 2009 were held throughout November in Cork, Dublin and Sligo. Graduating staff were conferred with awards for Fetac Level 5 Health Service Skills and Fetac Level 6 Supervisory Skills.

For the second year, participants were able to come together with their family, friends and employers to recognise and celebrate the successful culmination of all the hard work and the sacrifices which have had to be made by graduates. DFI would like to commend the resolve and commitment of all the participants who have undertaken this challenge to upskill and to improve their quality of service.

Left to right: Anthony Ratigan, Philomena Shannon, Patrick Powell ( County Roscommon Disability Support Group).

SKILL Programme has helped the graduates grow both personally and professionally, giving them greater confidence in their work while also encouraging each participant to embrace new ideas and approaches. Patrick Powell, Personal Assistant with the County Roscommon Disability Support Group, graduated on November 21st with the Fetac Level 5 Health Service Skills award.
Speaking about the benefits of the programme, Patrick said:

"The SKILL Programme reinforced my belief in what I'm doing, but it also gave me a fresh perspective and made me feel like I could keep improving on the job I do. I feel more confident in my day to day work now because I'm much more informed."

The Graduation Ceremonies also recognised the hard work and key role of line managers from all DFI participating member organisations who supported staff throughout this process. Mairéad McKeniry, Programme Facilitator with the Co. Roscommon Disability Support Group, celebrated the graduation of three of her staff members in November.

Speaking about the benefits of the programme for these graduates, Mairéad said:

"Staff are definitely more interested and have a greater understanding of why their work is important. I think that they feel now that what they do is more valued and the qualification gives them more of a sense of pride in their work."

The SKILL Programme represents the only training opportunity for staff of the voluntary sector which is fully funded, and supported through grant aid to employer organisations to ensure that service provision is not compromised by releasing staff on training.

This year also saw DFI member organisations input critically for the first time on the key learning objectives of organisations. Tutors within VECs around Ireland are now becoming fully briefed on the unique working experience of support staff within the voluntary disability sector. Read on for information on how your organisation can become involved on SKILL in 2010.

Congratulations and well done to everyone involved. DFI looks forward to continuing to support organisations avail of SKILL in 2010.

SKILL Programme Promotion 2010 / 2011

SKILL Programme is the only training programme of its kind available for support staff within Ireland. The goal of SKILL Programme is to provide accredited training and upskilling of staff within the health sector, and thereby to increase efficiency and effectiveness within the workplace and in turn to increase the quality and standard of services provided. The SKILL Programme offers:

  1. FREE FETAC Accredited training in 8 job specific modules.
  2. GRANTS of €3 , 500 per participant per programme to participating DFI member organisation.
  3. Open to all staff of voluntary disability sector (those covered under parallel benchmark agreement).

SKILL brings support staff and line managers / supervisors from the voluntary disability sector, the HSE and acute hospitals together for the first time on a national basis to undergo a year of training in FETAC Level 3, 4, 5 & 6 accredited programmes. SKILL Programme allows each unique perspective on the provision of care within a community, residential and or hospital based setting to be shared and discussed during training.

Support staff are provided with training through ring fenced funding from the Department of Finance, with employing organisations further supported with a backfill financial contribution per staff member per year. If your organisation would like to avail of SKILL Programme for training of your staff in 2010 / 2011 or for further details please contact your local DFI Support Officer or Cathy McGrath on 01 4250124 /


Value for Money & Policy Review of Disability Services

DFI held a breakfast session on the 12th November to introduce to voluntary organisations the implications of the Review and the process it involves. A presentation outlining how the Department of Finance expects the Review to operate was followed by an open discussion.

There was general agreement that organisations should take a proactive stance in making submissions to the Review Steering Group, with Board members involved. The submissions can highlight the complex reality in delivering services, and identify positive outcomes, whether or not there is a formal 'Performance Indicator' available. Thorough treatment of the value of the voluntary contribution was considered important. In relation to questions about potential amalgamations across organisations, the value of branding for disability-specific organisations must not be compromised in seeking cost savings.

DFI promised further guidance for organisations about the Review in the coming weeks. To access this and other related information on the Value for Money and Policy Review of Disability Services, please go the DFI website at

The Office of the Minister for Children

DFI met with the Minister for Children and Young Adults, Barry Andrews TD in November to discuss the potential for voluntary disability organisations to support mainstreaming of services for children, with specific focus on pre-school services and the universal year programme.

DFI noted that the establishment of the Office of the Minister for Children and Young Adults has generated new momentum in the area of early childhood policies, which is of great significance for children with disabilities. The remit of the OMCYA makes it an agent for co-ordinating pre-school child education and care across the country, and its inter-Departmental base and multi-year funding arrangements are essential in cross-agency working. In addition, its focus on inclusion and integration is very much in line with the approach of DFI and member organisations

Issues that cross the children / disability interest strongly include the 'universal year' programme, demonstrating the need for the OMCYA and the disability sector to work in a targeted way to ensure that children with disabilities benefit from the opportunities offered through this programme. Related issues of course include the need for a disability training component in FETAC Level 5, which could be broadened to encompass social inclusion training for those working in the mainstream preschool sector.

Furthermore, the value of the community development approach adopted by the OMCYA and on the benefits for disabled children in mainstream environments, where they are children first, with special needs as a secondary focus is of particular interest to our sectors mainstreaming agenda. The benefits to reciprocal placements across disabled and general services, and the importance of flexibility in resource allocation, was stressed as critical to the success of this approach. The importance of needs assessment in anticipating training needs was also highlighted.

All of us in the voluntary disability sector need to reflect on how service providers can best meet the specific disability needs of disabled children, but also how they can support and facilitate children to access mainstream services. We have a key role to play in facilitating processes to ensure that these children can access the generic children's services in the community and it is critical that disability organisations be included in planning for this.

DFI plans to hold a number of seminars in relation to children's issues in 2010 and we encourage all organisations with an interest in the delivery of services to children with disabilities to participate in these. Further information on this to follow in the new year.

Department of Health and Children Disability Advisory Committee

The second meeting of the Department of Health and Children Disability Advisory Committee took place on 30th October. A number of critical issues were on the agenda, including the review of the Department's Sectoral Plan and health issues raised under the NDS Stakeholders Monitoring Group. The Department revealed at the meeting that €5m of the €8.5m set aside in the April Budget for disability emergencies has been redeployed. All representatives at the meeting voiced serious concerns with this. Concern was also expressed with the Sectoral Plan Review document. It was agreed that in the future the group would meet in advance of the NDSSMG to enable representatives to feed into the health reports.

For further information please contact Lillian Buchanan, DFI Support Officer (contact details available at end of the newsletter).

Health Information and Quality Authority National Children in Care Inspection Report 2008

Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA ) have published National Children in Care Inspection Report 2008. The Health Information and Quality Authority is the independent Authority which was established under the Health Act 2007 to drive continuous improvement in

Ireland's health and social care services. The Authority was established as part of the Government's overall Health Service Reform Programme. Currently, there are approximately 5,500 children in care in Ireland, living in foster, residential and hostel care. This report details the functions of the Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services, as part of the Social Services Inspectorate within the Health Information and Quality Authority. It describes how inspections are carried out and provides an overview of findings from the inspection of services for children in care throughout 2008. It highlights key issues emerging from inspection findings noting a wide range of work from professionals and foster carers, identifies deficits in services and aims to ensure continuous improvements in the quality and outcomes of services provided to children in care.

To download a copy of the report

For further information please contact:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement
01 814 7481 / 086 2447 623

National Review of Audiology Service

The National Director of Primary Community and Continuing Care has requested that a National Review of Audiology Services be carried out. A key focus of this review will be the integration between PCCC, Acute Services and external agencies involved in the provision of audiology services. The Review Group will, therefore, be comprised of both Community and Hospital health care providers for adults and children.

Overarching Objective:

  • To assess the needs of the population for audiology services.
  • To audit current provision to assess the extent to which it is both adequate and consistent.
  • To make recommendations to address inadequacies and inconsistencies, with an implementation 'road map'.


The Review will examine the services currently being provided to Children and Adults nationwide and will inform a national plan for the service. The needs assessment will involve a review of the Audiology service to include the following:

  • Determine best practice with regard to assessment, referral and treatment.
  • Develop integrated care pathways to ensure integrated care.
  • Chart a "roadmap" to improve access and equity including integration across community and acute services.
  • Recommend standards of clinical governance and accountability.
  • Assess current training systems.
  • Consider future service requirements with an emphasis on scope of practice and workforce planning.
  • Make recommendations on service development proposals in line with resources available and required.
  • Take account of any learning from the review in the HSE south to inform that national needs assessment.


Submissions to the expert group are invited from members of the public, other interested stakeholders and / or local advocate groups on this Review.
Submissions may be e-mailed to or forwarded to
National Primary Care Services Manager
National Primary Care Services Office
Merlin Park Hospital
Deadline for submissions is 31/12/09.


Measuring National Social Progress

Interest in recognising and measuring the social dimensions of Ireland is growing. Following the launch of the NESC's social report, Well-being Matters (covered in the DFI October Newsletter), Social Justice Ireland held a seminar titled Beyond GDP: What is prosperity and how should it be measured? Irish, English and Italian analysts gave presentations which are available at

The focus on the social condition is a step towards giving concerns such as equality, access, quality of lives, and quality of the environment greater weight in policy decision-making. In part this is achieved by facilitating inter-country comparisons. The OECD, for example, is developing a comparative framework, which one of the seminar presentations described. This framework will include measures of people's physical and mental health, their knowledge and understanding, their work, their material well being, their interpersonal relationships and the extent of freedom and self determination. The increased attention on the human and distributive aspects of activity complements the higher priority given to disability issues, and is a welcome development.

NESF: Child Literacy and Social Inclusion

The National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) in November launched its Report # 39 on the implementation issues related to promoting child literacy and social inclusion. Improving the level of child literacy is a government priority and the report identifies best practice, emphasising the role of the wider community as well as the schools if progress is to be achieved. The focus was on school children in "disadvantaged communities".

A number of findings are relevant to the education of children with disabilities. For example the researchers found that different statutory and non statutory organisations had to work together for significant results. Careful planning to reach agreed outcomes underpinned successful implementation. Plans needed to incorporate effective accountability and incentive structures to ensure that all actors are working with each other. Amongst the recommendations of the NESF is the provision of quality early childhood education.

For further information, please go to .


Department of Social and Family Affairs Update

DFI attended a customer representative group meeting with the Department on Thursday 12th November 2009. The purpose of the meeting was to inform representatives across the voluntary sector of various schemes available to support welfare customers, particularly during this time of recession.

Relaunch of the Household Budgeting Facility

The Household Budget allows people who receive certain Social Services payments (including disability allowances) to pay a regular amount towards various household bills by direct deduction from their payments. The service is operated for the Department of Social& Family Affairs by An Post.It is intended to help people getting certain SocialServices payments to manage their householdfinances.There are no charges for use of this service - it isabsolutely FREE.

Bills that can be paid through the Household Budget Scheme include Local Authority Rents, ESB, Bord Gáis and Eircom bills.
For more information see 'Household Budget Scheme' at .

  • Presentation on the Appointments of Agents

Where a person is unable to collect their payment or manage their financial affairs a person may be appointed as their agent. An agent can be appointed on a temporary or on a long-term basis, to collect payments or act on behalf of the customer.

The Department may cancel an agency arrangement at any time where it has reason to believe that the arrangement is not working satisfactorily.

The following sets out the arrangements that can be put in place for customers depending on their personal circumstances:

  • Where a temporary agent is needed for no longer than three weeks.
  • Where an agent is nominated by the customer.
  • Where a person is unable to manage their own financial affairs.

More information can be sought on the DSFA website
For more information on DFI representation at the Department of Social and Family Affairs contact Support Officer Louise Mc Cann (Support Officers Details available at the end of the newsletter).

NESF Social Inclusion Forum 2009

The NESF Social Inclusion Forum was held on 4th November. The main forum of this Forum was on preparing for the EU Year (2010) devoted to combating poverty and social exclusion, with reference in particular to the major challenges for social inclusion from the economic downturn. The new Social Inclusion Division in the Department of Social and Family Affairs and its strategic plan was formally launched at the Forum
The themes for discussion reflected the four cross-cutting themes outlined in the Irish national programme for the European Year of Combating Poverty and Social Inclusion 2010, namely Child Poverty, Access to Quality Work and Learning Opportunities, Access to Services for Older People and Access to Services for people with Disabilities. Workshops were held on each of these themes, and the main focus in each workshop was 'How best to support vulnerable households through access to services and employment'.

The Forum was addressed by Mary Hanafin TD, Minister for Social and Family Affairs, who noted that never before had it been as important that the voice of the Forum should be heard.
The Forum will publish a Report on the proceedings in due course.

Pre School Education Policy

The evidence is overwhelming that investing in children's early development pays large dividends, especially for children with special needs, and Ireland has begun to take initiatives at the preschool level. On 26 November the Early Years Education Policy Unit of the Department of Education and Science held a Seminar where presentations were made about progress on three research projects. The main focus of all the projects was on improving the quality of preschool services through changes in the settings, for example in the physical and emotional environment of the setting, communications between actors, the parent-provider relationships, programme planning and training.
The presentation by Eucharia McCarthy and Mary Moloney described a practical project to develop a framework for facilitating the inclusion of children with special needs in preschool settings. The benefits of including the children in mainstream settings, even on a part-time basis were identified by most participants in the project. The researchers described the key aspects of the services that are important for special needs children, and indeed for children generally that the framework incorporates.

The Seminar offered no indication of implementation plans for applying the learning from the research projects when they are completed. However this should be a top priority when Ireland comes out of the recession. The projects showed the goodwill within the preschool sector to do the best for children, but they also revealed the barriers to disseminating best practice. For example, the special needs project was limited to Limerick and nearby counties but even within this region a wide variation in practices was revealed across service providers.

For more information please contact Lillian Buchanan , DFI Support Officer ( contact details available at the end of the newsletter).

'Salamanca - 15 Years On Inclusion - A School For All

Organised by the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies and the European Association of Service Providers for People with Disabilities (EASPD), this Conference was held in Malahide, Dublin, from 11th to 13th November 2009.

The Salamanca Statement, the outcome of the UNESCO Conference on Education for Persons with Disabilities held in 1994, is an important manifesto for inclusion as a way of achieving high quality education for all. Although much has been achieved since this Statement was made, clearly much remains to be done.

The Conference proceedings provided an overview of the Salamanca Statement, its development and progress to date. To move practice in a more inclusive direction, however, the Conference noted the importance of involving stakeholders in the field. To this end, the views of people with disabilities, their families and professionals were offered at the event on the opportunities, challenges, and needs in relation to inclusive education. In addition presentations were made on the perspectives of international organisations, European and national authorities. Presenters included the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O'Keefe TD, Peter Baldwin, Assistant Secretary General, Department of Education and Science, Pat Curtain, NCSE, and representatives from the EASPD, the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, the Council of Europe, St John of God Community Services, Central Remedial Clinic and Cope Foundation. A number of workshops were held, relating to early intervention, developing teacher competencies in inclusive settings, developing schools to meet the needs of those with high dependencies / special communications needs, and new approaches to multi-disciplinary working.

During the final session of the Conference a Final Conference Manifesto on Inclusive Education was made, which will be ratified and brought to European, National and local organisations. The basis of the Manifesto is that all children and adults have an equal right to high quality and appropriate education, in an inclusive environment. This right requires a reorganisation of the education system and cannot be realised currently in mainstream schools. It is hoped that disability organisations in Europe will be motivated to ratify the Manifesto and to work towards inclusion, step by step.

For further information contact .

United Nations Convention on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights

The Irish Government will be reporting to the UN on its implementation of these rights in 2010. In line with the UN evaluation process, Amnesty International is leading a coalition of voluntary and not-for-profit organisations in preparing a 'shadow report'. This parallel or shadow report will critique Ireland's progress, including the experience of those seeking to assert their rights.

DFI has joined the coalition which will be focussing on the rights in the UN convention relating to health and to housing and accommodation. We will submit material from the perspective of people with disabilities and the voluntary organisations working with them. Further updates will be made as the reporting process evolves.

For further information, please contact


Neurological Alliance of Ireland Innovation Award 2010

Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI) in association with Medtronic Ireland are calling for applications for the Neurological Alliance of Ireland Innovation Award 2010- recognising innovation in care for people with neurological conditions.

What is the Neurological Alliance of Ireland Innovation Award?

The award recognises outstanding achievement in the development and / or delivery of innovative solutions that have improved or have the potential to improve the quality of life of people with a neurological condition in Ireland
Entry is open to anyone working in the area of neurological conditions in Ireland. One overall winner will receive the award and a prize of €2000 for the non profit organisation or institution of their choice. The winner and three runners up will have the opportunity to present their entries at the NAI national conference as part of National Brain Awareness Week on March 9th 2010.

Entry is free to the NAI Innovation Award, full details and entry form are available on the NAI website at , by contacting the Neurological Alliance of Ireland at 01 8724120 or e mail at

The closing date for applications is Friday 22nd January 2010.

Fighting Blindness

DFI would like to congratulate Mr. Michael Griffith, Chairman of Fighting Blindness, who has been selected by the Senate of Trinity College Dublin to receive the honorary degree of Doctor in Science (honoris causa) on December 11th 2009.

Michael Griffith was founding Chairman of Fighting Blindness in 1983 and Chief Executive 1996-2008.

For more than 20 years he has played a crucial role in the development of biomedical research in Ireland in general and of Genetics at Trinity in particular. His support and fundraising efforts since the 1980s led to the mapping of the human genes responsible for retinitis pigmentosa, a form of blindness. He has been the driving force behind Fighting Blindness which today supports more than 14 research projects on eye diseases. He has been a member of the Health Research Board between 2002 and 2005 and again since 2007 and of many international health bodies.

The Honorary degree is recognition of Michael Griffith's work in the fight against degenerative and inherited blindness and it is also a validation of the importance of patient involvement in the development of medical research.

GROW supported by Youth Work Ireland Laois

GROW World Community Mental Health Movement, in conjunction with Laois Youth Service, have launched a new support group for Young Adults between the age of 18 and 25 years of age at the D'Youth Factory, Abbeyleix Rd., Portlaoise. Meetings are held every Monday at 7.30pm. In the Ireland of 2009 many people may be feeling lonely, isolated and vulnerable but may not understand why.

GROW has been in Ireland since 1969 and has a network of 150 support groups throughout the country. GROW is the largest mental health movement in the country and is a mutual support group that can provide valuable support for people. GROWs principal strength is the support members give to each other from their own experience in matters to do with mental health. It provides an opportunity for them to discuss how they are feeling. For further information on GROW contact: GROW website at or phone John at 086 8033126. John is a fieldworker in the Laois area and is available to speak to groups about the above on request.