Irish Wheelchair Association has a vision of an Ireland where people with disabilities enjoy equal rights, choices and opportunities in how they live their lives, and where our country is a model worldwide for a truly inclusive society.
As part of our services, we provide fully accessible holidays and respite breaks to enable people with physical disabilities to take a holiday with the specialist support of Irish Wheelchair Association’s staff.
In recent years, there have been positive changes in accessibility standards in Ireland that now present a greater range of choice and options for people with disabilities seeking a holiday or respite break which is positively supported by Government policy and funded via the HSE.
Consequently, there has been a shift in best practice approaches, moving away from congregated, health service settings to integrated holiday services that provide people with greater options, alongside the supports they need to maintain independence. This shift is reflected in current HSE policy under ‘Time to Move on from Congregated Settings: A Strategy for Community Inclusion’ and Sláintecare, and it aims to facilitate the choices and preferences of people with disabilities.
Irish Wheelchair Association is transitioning its holiday service in the West of Ireland to provide accessible hotel holidays into the future, and plans to provide a wider range of choice to people with disabilities seeking to take a supported respite holiday in the West of Ireland by partnering with fully accessible hotels. This new and innovative service will commence in March 2020 in collaboration with the HSE.
Our new holiday service will provide people with a modern, inclusive, fully-independent hotel break in a range of locations with easy access to local towns and a wider choice of amenities. It will also enable people with disabilities to take an enjoyable holiday with friends or family in the same hotel as chosen by them from a selection of options.
Irish Wheelchair Association has been operating comparable hotel holiday breaks in Kilkenny since 2018 and has received positive feedback across the board from our guests. This service was also shortlisted for an Irish Healthcare Centre award in 2019. Samples of the feedback we have received include:
Staff excellent, food excellent; feel equal going on holidays with everyone else.
I no longer feel like people with disabilities are in a box.
It’s all excellent. You give us a great holiday not just respite.
Irish Wheelchair Association has developed a range of holiday respite options for all our guests, regardless of their level of support requirement, i.e., low, medium or high level support. Irish Wheelchair Association will provide support to guests on a tailored, individual basis. We will ensure guests have everything they need including fully accessible en-suite bedrooms, specialised beds, aids and appliances, hoists, support with medication management and clinical tasks and Irish Wheelchair Association’s skilled personal assistance service 24/7. Our fully accessible transport can be arranged and will be available to provide transport to activities and events in the community.
The move to the new holiday service means that the Cuisle buildings will not open in 2020. It is equally important to reflect that IWA does not own the existing facility and that the lease arrangement in place will expire in 2026. Additionally, it is the case that the existing Cuisle facility requires very significant new capital investment in order to undertake major upgrade works. From a value for money perspective, this does not ultimately make sense given the facility is no longer fit for purpose.
IWA and HSE representatives were invited by Minister McGrath to meet on Tuesday 12th of November in order to provide the necessary reassurances in respect of what is fundamentally a progressive and innovative way to meet the needs of people with a disability that wish to avail of holiday respite breaks. IWA stressed to Minister McGrath that the clear choice and preference of people with a disability is increasingly more about having access to positive and non-segregated settings and where existing commercial hotel provider settings implement universal design initiatives to accommodate people of all levels of abilities.
Irish Wheelchair Association acknowledges the loss of employment associated with the closure of the Cuisle building. Where possible we will offer redeployment opportunities and we are working with staff and their representatives to ensure minimum impact. We thank the staff for their commitment and dedication to the Cuisle-based service and local community for their support over many years. We look forward to continuing a high quality national respite service on behalf of our members.