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Conference Hears How People with Disabilities in North-West are ‘Achieving Ambitions’

26/04/2013 Conference Hears How People with Disabilities in North-West are ‘Achieving Ambitions’

“The Day Opportunities Project supported me to learn independent skills and now I live in my own apartment in town. I wouldn’t have been doing that without the project. I’ve made lots of new friends and I’m doing lots of new things like volunteering, wheelchair basketball and preparing for my driver theory test. I’m a lot more confident now!” These are the words of Aoife McMorrow, 24, from Sligo Town, one of the speakers who addressed over 140 delegates at the ‘Achieving Ambitions’ conference in the Sligo Park Hotel today (Thursday, 25th April). Hosted by RehabCare, the one-day conference was officially opened by Cllr. David Cawley, Mayor of Sligo. 

‘Achieving Ambitions’ showcased the work of the Day Opportunities Project, an innovative cross-border initiative designed to enable people with disabilities to participate more actively in all aspects of community life. The Day Opportunities Project focuses on improving the quality of life and enhancing opportunities for people with disabilities by providing alternatives to the traditional model of day services. Funding for the project is provided by the European Union’s INTERREG IVA programme, secured by the Co-operation and Working Together’s (CAWT) Citizenship Project.

Since it commenced in July 2011, the project has supported over 80 people with disabilities from the Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal region in identifying and accessing a variety of daytime activities and opportunities. Participants on the project are aged between 18 and 64 years of age and include those with learning, physical and/or sensory disabilities. Described as a service without walls, the Day Opportunities Project takes place within the local community and involves the support of family and friends, staff within service provider organisations, employers and community volunteers.

According to Laura Keane, Director of Health and Social Care Services, Rehab Group, the collaborative and cross border nature of the project is hugely important to its success in connecting people with disabilities throughout the region to employment, training, leisure, social, educational and recreational activities within their own communities. “The primary focus of the project is on creating choice and flexibility for people with disabilities and participants have really embraced the opportunities that have arisen as a result. It’s been a very positive experience for all those involved and a wonderful opportunity for organisations in the cross border region to share their learning and experiences.”

Speaking at the event, Anne Marie Ward, Manager of Training and Occupational Support Services at the HSE West, said, “This event showcased the excellent work that is underway in the North West, with the support of RehabCare, in providing opportunities for people with disabilities. It is wonderful to hear, directly from the individuals concerned, the impact this cross border project is having on the lives of people with physical, sensory and learning disabilities living in the North West.”

Tom Daly, Director General of CAWT said: “I am delighted that CAWT and the HSE were able to secure EU INTERREG IVA funding for this cross border initiative, which is enabling greater levels of inclusion and access to services for people with disabilities in the border region. It is extremely encouraging to witness the difference the CAWT Citizenship project is making to the lives of people with disabilities living in our communities.”

Those addressing the Achieving Ambitions conference included people with disabilities, and a number of family representatives, who shared their personal experiences of the project. Other speakers at the event included Tom Daly, Director General of CAWT; Anne Marie Ward, Manager, Training and Occupational Support Service, HSE West; Damien McCallion, Integrated Services Manager, HSE; Laura Keane, Director of Health and Social Care Services, Rehab Group; Jim Rushe and Ann Marie Banks, Ballytivnan Training Centre; Aaron Costello, Sligo Sports Project; Seamus McManus, Ocean FM, and Aideen Morrison, Consultant Psychiatrist, Learning Disabilties Services, Donegal. The conference also included an exhibition space with organisations from the voluntary and staturory sector hosting stands and providing information to conference delegates.

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