Journey To Belonging

Introduction to the Journey to Belonging European Project

Transitions are very important times in life for everyone; e.g. leaving school, moving house; changing work or dealing with a family bereavement. The change process is a time of opportunity, growth and development. It can also bring stresses, upheaval and realignment of thinking and acting. For people with intellectual disability (ID) these changes can be even more crucial processes. People with ID often have a range of supports in their lives – their families, voluntary and/or statutory organisations providing services, and community supports. At times of change it is vital that the person themselves and all parties providing supports are adequately prepared, involved and supported. Without appropriate and adequate information, communication and cooperation; transition times can become a crisis. This can be exacerbated during transitional phases when bureaucracy, numerous contact points and deferral of decision-making can lead to frustration and disappointment. There is therefore a need to share knowledge and peer supports in the area of Transitions.

Our Grungtvig Partnership Project 

Lifelong Learning ProgrammeTo address the need for information about good support at times of transition, a number of partners from the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (, came together to develop a project focussed on building capacity and enhancing social inclusion for people with ID at times of transition, change and challenge. We applied for European funding through the Grundtvig Learning Partnerships, and the successful application led to the Journey to Belonging Project.

The project facilitated adult learners with ID and staff supporters from different European countries to meet with the purpose of identifying, sharing, and learning effective methods of working through transition points at different times across the life-cycle. Through participating in the Journey to Belonging programme, the participants gained an understanding of learning gathered from different European countries with regards to 5 specific transition points:

- Informing families of their child's disability

- 'Moving out'

- Moving into older age

- Personal Futures Planning

- Moving from a congregated setting into community life.

In addition to the knowledge about each of the individual transitions, the programme also sequentially allowed the participants to build a picture of the common themes in relation to good transition practice, as they reflected on the knowledge shared about each individual transition time.

The participants who have intellectual disabilities had their voices heard as they participated in the interactive learning and information sharing mobilities. The experience of sharing knowledge for the participants with ID, family members and staff fostered mutual understanding of needs, priorities and an understanding of the need for increased empowerment of people with ID in decision-making processes.

The participants also experienced different cultures whilst interacting with people from six different European countries, each with its own unique culture of food, music, history, scenary and heritage. Through the work of the project the participants have a deepened understanding of the value of active European citizenship.


The partners who participated in the Journey to Belonging Project were Ireland, Finland, Slovenia, France, Austria. Colleagues from Germany also joined us on the majority of the mobilities. The project was coordinated by the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies in Ireland together with the Finnish partners Kehitysvammaisten Palvelusäätiö (Service Foundation for People with an Intellectual Disability). Our first mobility took place in December 2011 in Ireland, and our next was hosted in April 2012 by our partners in Slovenia; Center za usposabljanje delo in varstvo, Dolfke Bostjancic Draga. In June of 2012 we visited Helsinki in Finland, followed in November of the same year by a mobility hosted in Paris by the French partners, Réseau Handicap Domicile 77. Our final mobility took place in Salzburg, Austria and this part of our learning partnership was hosted by Lebenshilfe Salzburg gemeinnützige GmbH.

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Sharing the Learning

We would like to share the learning that we gained through working on the Journey to Belonging Project. We gathered good practice and life experiences in relation to each of the key topics; informing families of their child's disability; moving out; moving into older age; moving from congregated settings into community living; and using Personal Futures Planning to help make decisions at times of transition in life.
We have shared this learning here on our Journey to Belonging webpage. If you have any questions or would like more information, you can contact us at  

Irish Mobility - The first transition: discovering your child has a disability

Our first mobility looked at the very first transition point in a family's life; when the parents are informed that their child has a disability. In December 2011, family members and professionals who provide the communication travelled to Dublin to hear about best practice guidelines that were developed in Ireland to address the need for good communication at the time of disclosure. Click on the links below to see some of the presentations and materials that were shared at the mobility: 

Words You Never Forget Presentation.ppt

Cork Pilot Implementation Presentation.ppt


Informing Families Consultation and Research Report.pdf

A website with more information in seven languages has been developed for families and professionals and you can access this at

Katherine OLeary describes her experiences as a parent Mobility in Ireland

Katherine O'Leary, a mother of two children with disabilities shares her experiences with the partners from the Journey to Belonging Project. 

Slovenia, our 2nd mobility - Good support when moving into older age

The Slovenian partner in the project, CUDV DRAGA, organised our second mobility which took place in Ljubljana; "Transition into older age". For this mobility, articles, research and good practice guides were gathered related to aging. Some of the teachers from CUDV DRAGA prepared presentations about issues related to aging, including a well-known Slovenian Psychiatrist Ales Kogoj, who is an expert in the field of dementia and he provided information about dementia in people with intellectual disabilities. We had an extremely successful interactive workshop for adult learners during this mobility. A mother who has two sons with intellectual disabilities shared her own experiences, wishes and fears with us.

All of the presentations were made in the English language and in easy-to-read format. Materials prepared by the partners were shared together.

The mobility offered participants from other countries an opportunity to experience the culture and natural heritage of Slovenia with a visit to the old Škrabec house in Ribnica and seeing the amazing stalactites and stalacmites in Postojna cave.

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Introduction to the concept of aging

Transition into older age

Innovative validation


Finland - our third step: 'Moving Out' good transition practice

The third step of our journey was in Finland. Kehitysvammaisten Palvelusäätiö - The Service Foundation for People with an Intellectual Disability has developed "Moving-out" training since 1991. The purpose of the "Moving-out" training is to offer support to the person with special needs who are planning to move, as well as to other family members and to any support staff involved. Co-operation is important: persons who are moving, their family members, staff and other stakeholders. It is important to share knowledge and experiences.

In June 2012, we learned what "Moving-out" training is in general and what it means when you move out from an institution. We had three presentations in which a participating self-advocate, family member and municipality told about their experiences of the training. We also had a study visit to a service in Helsinki and finished with beautiful Finnish typical summer evening swimming in a lake near Espoo and cooking saugages over the camp-fire.

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Click on the links below to see some of the presentations and materials that were shared at the mobility. You can also visit the website of The Service Foundation for People with an Intellectual Disability to read more about "Moving-out" training.

Introduction to Moving Out training

Family perspective - Harri Rantenan

Moving out training supported by peer mentoring

Moving out from the institution

Jari's story of moving out

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Our journey to France: Moving out of institutions to community living

On 14th and 15th of November 2012, the Réseau Handicap Domicile 77 Association organized a European seminar for professionals, people with disabilities and their relatives. The first day of the seminar took place at Le Centre de la Gabrielle in Claye-Souilly and the second one was organized at MFPASS, in the Montparnasse tower (Paris).French mobility.JPG Thumbnail0During those two days, the main goal was to share good practice, experiences and research from different countries about the issue: “Living at home, it’s a choice”. After a short presentation of the Réseau Handicap Domicile 77, different topics were explored: the concept of deinstitutionalization and its meaning in France, the professional pathways of people supported by RHD 77 and a  presentation by the members of the RHD 77 network. The aim of the network is to gather services to create guidelines, share good practices, organize coordination, develop common partnerships, provide information and communication, and lead research actions, in order to create a common culture to support people living in their own homes. 
On the first day, the participants visited some services of Le Centre de la Gabrielle, notably the day centre for ageing people with intellectual disabilities, called “Couleurs et Création”.

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During the presentations on the second day, some debates erupt about the interruption in the follow up care suffered by young adults when they can’t be supported by services for children and not yet by services for adults. The afternoon was dedicated to the social event. After a typical French lunch and a travel by the Parisian subway, we went on the Island of the City in the middle of Paris in order to visit the cathedral of Notre-Dame. The seminar was concluded by a boat trip on the Seine River.

Along the two days, people with disabilities from Ireland, Slovenia, Finland, Austria, and France shared their experiences and presented many research results.
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Bernadette Grosyeux, President of the Réseau Handicap Domicile 77 and Mathieu Tirlo, Project coordinator of the RHD 77, presenting the organisation, the network composition and its main achievements.

Our final mobility in Austria - Personal Futures Planning

Our last mobility looked at Personal Future Planning as a very useful tool for supporting persons with learning disability at times of transition. In April 2013, more than 30 self-advocates and professionals traveled to Salzburg to learn about this methodology. Karin Mair, Bernie Rieger and Josef Gsenger from Lebenshilfe Salzburg told the international guests how the organization works with these tools. Bernie Rieger and Josef Gsenger gave an impressive testimony on how they were able to achieve important goals for their life and improve their quality of life through the process. The program was enriched by the personal experiences of self-advocates from the participating countries.

Self-advocates from Austria, Finland and Ireland and their supporters spent an additional day for exchanges on their inclusive research activities.

Click on the links below to see some of the presentations and information shared during this mobility:

Transition PCP Overview

Lagebesprechung_English 01 (Briefing 01.pdf)

Lagebesprechung 2 English

Lagebesprechung 3 English

Lagebesprechung 4 English

Lagebesprechung 4a English

Lagebesprechung 5 English

Josef Gsenger English

Karin Mair and BernieJosef

Bernie Rieger and Josef Gsenger sharing their experiences with the participants. Karin Mair, Anni Frank and Ferdinand Eder supported them in the future planning.e research activities.




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