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Offering a helping hand


WORKING TOGETHER Pictured at the launch of The Mayo News/O’Neills Club Stars awards in The Safari Club, Castlebar, are, left to right: Ciara Galvin (The Mayo News), Seán Deane (AIB, sponsors), Mary Mulryan (Enable Ireland Mayo Services), Trevor Watson (O’Neills Sports, sponsors) and Kevin Loftus (The Mayo News). Pic: Conor McKeown

Enable Ireland Mayo Services will benefit from this month’s Club Stars awards

Ciara Galvin

FOR parents with a child with a disability, respite care provided by Enable Ireland may be their only time to recharge their batteries. Or a collection service may allow a child to attend hydrotherapy sessions miles from their home, without families worrying about logistics.
Enable Ireland, Mayo Services are this year’s charity partner for The Mayo News/O’Neills Club Stars awards which take place on Friday, January 19.
The Mayo News caught up with Clare Lenehan, Enable Ireland’s Director of Services for Galway and Mayo, recently to find out a little more about some of the critical services that the charity provides.
Currently the organisation provides services to 315 children and 38 adults in Mayo.
From physical and sensory disabilities such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida, to a range of different syndromes and neuro-muscular conditions, Enable Ireland works across the board to enhance service users’ independence.
Like a lot of charities, Enable Ireland must continuously fund-raise to bridge huge gaps. Yearly, this figure stands at approximately €2 million nationally.
When asked what the most in-demand service is, Ms Lenehan says: ‘All of them’.
Sadly, the reality is that locally and nationally, Enable Ireland’s services are stretched.
The organisation desperately needs a new bus to provide transport for children and adults attending appointments, and new technology that would allow for smart wheelchair assessments.
“No additional resources have gone into children disability services in the last couple of years,” explained Ms Lenehan, adding that demand on services has increased 42 percent in the last ten years.
“Nationally, the HSE allocate to all the different counties, “Mayo hasn’t received any additional resources in the disability section for children in the last couple of years.
“It has to put a strain on services, and then your services are being spread thinner to give everybody something.”
“Between physiotherapy and social work, there’s a huge waiting list. We’d have children who have high support needs that are only getting a couple of hours a week,” she added.
Describing respite services as an ‘enormous benefit’ to families, Ms Lenehan said this service allows parents who are up all night taking care of a child with a disability, to ‘recharge their batteries’.
In Mayo, Enable Ireland employ 60 people part-time and two full-time.
This year Enable Ireland and Western Care will be linking up as part of a HSE directive.
It’s hoped the roll-out of this combined effort (which has existed for children under six years of age since 2009) will now be available for teenagers up to 18-years of age with a network disability service in Ballina, Castlebar and Westport.
“They will cover that geographical area and children will be seen in their own school and home area and not travelling long distances to get services,” explained Ms Lenehan.

Fundraising challenges
THE Director of Services admits that the fund-raising climate is ‘challenging’ at the moment as people do not have the same amount of money in their pockets.
Plus, negative publicity about a number of charity orgaisations means that people are more ‘selective’ about who they support.
“We need to fundraise for continuing pressures on the services and the running costs, and all the funding received goes directly to the frontline service provision,” she said.
Eanble Ireland prides itself on being ‘fully transparent’, so Ms Lenehan candidly says that that although people would prefer to see their donations go towards a piece of equipment or setting up a new programme for service users, sometimes the reality is that fixing a leaky roof or sending a staff member on a specialised training programme takes precedence.

Transport and technology
FUNDRAISING to buy a bus to transport service users to and from appointments, picking children up and bringing them to therapy and their local preschool, is high on the agenda.
“When you think of a Mum, if she has three smallies and one has a disability, it’s an awful lot to pack into a car, it’s easier to get into a bus.”
Another fundraising goal for the Mayo Branch would be to invest in smart wheelchair-based training for children.
This would teach small children up to 12 years of age about wheelchair mobility and they can practice with smart technology to get the sensation of powered-independent movement.
“You’re doing an assessment of mobility, and what would best suit that particular child, so you’re not wasting any money. You’re doing a good assessment on what assistive technology is for that child by using this smart-based powered wheelchair training.”
The organisation has bought part of the technology but Ms Lenehan says the dream would be for an IT-based company, that would be interested in working on a project of this type in relation to simulation, to come on board.
“If we had a room of simulation you could actually put up a route a child goes in their neighbourhood and you could use that for training mechanisms, that’s something we would hope to do and if we could get a company to get on board and work with us, like an IT or gaming companies.
“Children with disabilities have extra challenges in life that a child without a disability doesn’t, and it’s very important that the child is encouraged to follow their dreams,” added Ms Lenehan.
“It’s about enabling children to find their way in life, be independent and be included.”
With the help of fundraising events like The Mayo News/O’Neill’s Club Stars awards, Enable Ireland will continue to provide vital services for children and adults with disabilities in the West of Ireland.

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