National Advocacy Service (NAS) “naming the gaps” for people with intellectual disabilities and autism who experience homelessness
The National Advocacy Service for people with disabilities is a representative advocacy service that works exclusively for the person with a disability. The service held an event in the Ashling Hotel last month to highlight some of the issues emerging regarding long term supported accommodation for people with intellectual disabilities and autism.
Speaking at the event Louise Loughlin, NAS National Manager said: “Our case work figures indicate up to 10% of the people we support are finding difficulty in accessing appropriate supports and accommodation. The number of enquiries to NAS regarding people living in homeless services or at risk of homelessness has increased in recent years. Many of these people have not previously accessed disability services or if they once did, they no longer do so. Through our work we have identified the gaps in service provision.
People living with Intellectual Disabilities or Autism find it difficult to cope in hostel situations and often are unable to access traditional longer term supported accommodation. Disability service providers can provide supports to people in homeless services but are unable to provide accommodation”.
This roundtable event provides a space for those working with this sector of society to reflect on current policy and provision and put forward some workable solutions to support those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Some of the presenters included Darragh Byrne, Regional Manager, Gheel Autism Service, Majella Darcy, Head of Treatment and Enterprise, Dublin Simon Community and Hazel Mulligan from St. Michaels House. The event focused on the ways in which homeless services can support people living with Autism or Asperger’s to become more ‘Autism friendly’. How training and support for staff working with people who may be autistic is essential. It stressed the importance of including people with autism in the design of services to ensure that those services are effective and appropriate.
Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner, Human Rights and Equality Commission took the opportunity to highlight the obligation on state funded services to ensure quality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of service users and all those affected by their policies and plans.
The event also provided an opportunity for those who have experienced homelessness. Mark, in his early 30’s, living in Dublin spoke to those present about his experience of couch surfing with friends and family members but he eventually ended up homeless. He explained his difficult coping with hostel accommodation due to the noise levels and others not understanding how he communicated. He also experienced violence and drug use which distressed him greatly. An advocate supported him to obtain a diagnosis of his disability and connect with an organisation supporting people who are autistic. Mark now lives in social housing and has access to the support staff he needs.
Pictured at the event from left: Hazel Mulligan, Service Manager, St. Michaels House, Dr. Michael Byrne, National Families and Childrens Team, Social Care Division, HSE. Louise Loughlin, National Manager, National Advocacy Service.
Sinead Keirns, Solicitor Mercy Law Resource, Dr. Michael Byrne, National Disability Children and Families Team HSE, Paula Mayock, Assistant Professor School of Social Work and Social Policy TCD, Mark O' Connor Community Engagement Lead Inclusive Ireland and Cormac O' Donnell, Administrative Officer, Dublin Region Homeless Executive.
Laura Dowling, Advocate, NAS Greater Dublin Region. Angela Black, CEO, CIB. Louise Loughlin, National Manager, NAS. Suzy Byrne, Senior Advocate, NAS, Greater Dublin Region.
Pictured at the Roundtable event are members of NAS staff who attended.
Back Row: Gerald McCann, Advocate, Southern Region. Clare O’Neill, Senior Advocate, Western Region, John Walshe, Advocate, Midlands and North East Region, Jim Comiskey, Advocate, Greater Dublin Region, Ronan Halpenny, Manager, Greater Dublin Region.
Middle Row: Pearl Malone, Administrator, Greater Dublin Region, Sarah Campbell, Advocate, Greater Dublin Region, Ruth McCullagh, Advocate, Greater Dublin Region, Patty O’Malley Advocate, Greater Dublin Region. Laura Dowling, Advocate, Greater Dublin Region, Andrea Reynolds, Senior Advocate, Greater Dublin Region, Ann Saurin, Advocate, Greater Dublin Region. Jolene Kelly, Advocate, Southern Region.
Front Row Jenny Cullen, Advocate, Greater Dublin Region, Louise Loughlin, National Manager, Greater Dublin Region, Suzy Byrne, Senior Advocate, Greater Dublin Region