Personal assistance services

 

A chara, – I echo the call of Ross Coleman (“All I’m asking for is the same rights as all of you”, Health & Family, August 5th) for a well-resourced personal assistance service for disabled people.

I am an 18-year-old wheelchair-user who has applied to start university this autumn. This will, I hope, be made possible by the provision of a personal assistant who will help me with tasks that I would be unable to complete without their support.

Personal assistance is a necessary service that should not be the preserve of a few disabled people who are fortunate to attend college. Nor should the assistance end with the academic day. Disabled people need assistance outside the academic environment, to enable us to access work, social and cultural experiences.

The State has an obligation under Article 19(b) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure that disabled people have access to a range of services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community.

But the Department of Health’s recent Disability Capacity Review showed that the need for personal assistance services in our community has not even been quantified, much less addressed, as it “has not been the practice by service providers or the HSE to document unmet need” in this area. Two-thirds of the 2,500 people who are fortunate to have personal assistance support receive fewer than 10 hours per week, which as the review says “is unlikely to be able to go much beyond the provision of basic personal care, or unlikely to enable someone achieve independent living”.

I was unfamiliar with the concept of a personal assistance service until my transition year when I was introduced to the Independent Living Movement Ireland. But it is a concept which is key to unlocking my hopes of a career in education and an independent adult existence, without being unduly or inappropriately reliant on my parents.

I hope that in the near future a comprehensive personal assistance service, that recognises and rewards the vitally important role of a personal assistant, will be rolled out to enable disabled people like Ross Coleman, myself and many others to make our contributions as independent adult citizens in this society. – Yours, etc,

GRACE MURPHY,

Ballsbridge,

Dublin 4.