Residential Weekend Think-Tank July 10th & 11th 2009

  • Review of the literature and presentations from the weekend

On the 10th and 11th of July the National Federation hosted a residential weekend think tank to discuss and debate the issue of living options for people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland.
This think tank formed part of the action agenda of the Research Subcommittee who had as its research focus for 2009 the topic of Living Options.
It also was a one of the key topics identified in the consultation process of the NFVB Research Strategy.
Alongside this there are a number of research projects happening in Ireland at the moment which has this topic as its theme, including:

  • The Brothers of Charity Action Research Project on Transitions to Socially inclusive living funded by Pobal
  • The Inclusive Research Network National Survey on ‘Where we Live’
  • The HSE Congregated Settings Project which has been completed and due to be published in the coming months.


It was proposed that this weekend format replace a traditional conference. This was a new style of conference or seminar aimed to be a more rigorous interrogation of the research literature and an opportunity to bring people together to look at the evidence nationally and internationally. The event was organised to promote a spirit of learning whereby we examined what we don’t know about this topic. We wanted to know how we can improve people’s lives and one way to do this is to examine the evidence in the literature on residential options for people with intellectual disability.

There is a hunger for new ideas and for learning by evidence. There is also a wish and a need to avoid loose and irresponsible spread of anecdotal ideas and rhetoric based on idealism and aspiration alone.

Twenty-five participants attended the residential think tank. These people were in the main people who are involved in research on this topic, in examining literature and practices in this area and were invited to attend on the basis that they could offer and share their knowledge and expertise in this area.

A reading list was circulated prior to the event and participants were asked to choose a piece of literature, summarise the main findings and offer some reflection on its application to the Irish situation.

On Saturday the focus of the groups work was to reflect on these 16 presentations and to comment about what this meant for services in Ireland today.

What emerged after much discussion debate and examination of the literature were seven core questions which we will consider and answer in 2009:

  1. Who has power? What are the assumptions about intellectual disability?
  2. Who decides? How do we meaningfully support people to determine how they live)?
  3. What are the living options? (What is a home? How can we de-institutionalise the mindset)
  4. What is quality in a living option? (Relationships, self-determination, participation)
  5. What does research say is the best living option? (Data says Supported Living achieves better outcomes? What is supported living?)
  6. What are the costs associated with different options? (Are group homes are expensive institutions?)
  7. How should people be supported to live a good life? (Choice giving, listening, validating, respectful interaction)
  8. How should the supporters be supported? (clarify objectives, monitoring, training, proactive supervision)




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