Fifty years of creating independence in Ireland
After half a century of giving people with disabilities in Ireland privacy and dignity, Cheshire Homes is looking ahead to more challenges
“I stayed there until it closed in 2011. By the end, we all had our own rooms but we got up at the same time every day and went to bed at the same time and had our meals at the same time every day,” she explains.
While living in the Barrett Cheshire Home in Herbert St, Gaul was an extra in the Irish film, Inside I’m Dancing (2004).
Like other people with physical disabilities who opted for independent living in the community, Gaul did a “lifestyle project” before embarking on her new life.
“I looked at different places to live and I chose here because it’s near shops and a pub. I go out nearly every day now whereas in the ‘home’, they didn’t have the staff to bring me out.”
Gaul appreciates the fact that she is her own boss now. She interviewed potential flatmates and the person she chose has shared the rented apartment with her since the start. She also interviewed and chose her support workers and sets their hours herself. The apartment belongs to Cheshire Ireland and her support staff are also employed by Cheshire Ireland.
Apart from managing her home life, going shopping, swimming and taking trips to the cinema, Gaul also partakes in weekly art and music classes and a Zumba class in Enable Ireland in Sandyford.
She shows me paintings of hers that feature in the new Sandyford Artists Calendar 2014 (available from Enable Ireland shops at €5).
“I spent two days there doing my classes and chatting with my friends,” she explains.
Reflecting back on the enormous changes independent living has brought to her life, Gaul says, “I’ve changed a lot since I moved here. It’s the sense of freedom. I speak up for myself more. I’m more confident and I’d like to inspire other people to live independently as I do.”
History of Cheshire Homes In Ireland
The first Cheshire Home was opened in Hampshire in 1948. The first Cheshire Home in Ireland was opened in Shillelagh, Co Wicklow in 1961 and the Cheshire Foundation (now Cheshire Ireland) was set up in Ireland in 1963. There are now 17 accommodation centres across Ireland and Cheshire services in more than50 countries.
The services – residential, respite and community support – are mainly offered to people with physical disabilities ranging from progressive neurological conditions to acquired brain injuries. Approximately, one-fifth of service users now live in the community. See also cheshire.ie