Volunteering in Intellectual Disability Services in Ireland:
“Supporting People to Live the Life of their own Choice in their own Community”
Minister Pat Carey, TD, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State with special responsibility for Active Citizenship, launched the findings of a national survey on volunteering in intellectual disability services in Ireland in the Hibernian Hotel, Mallow on Monday 6th October 2008. The survey was carried out and published by the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies and is the first national study on volunteering to be conducted within intellectual disability services in Ireland.
Pictured at the Volunteering Launch
Back row (l to r): John O’Dea, Western Care; Jerry Mullane, Cope Foundation; Noreen McGarry, Western Care; Ann Byrne, KARE; Breda Casey, National Federation of Voluntary Bodies;
Front row (l to r): Linda Keane, Ability West; Maura Nash, Cope Foundation, Brian O’Donnell, National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, Roisin Deery, Midway Services; Mary O’Connell, Brothers of Charity Services Limerick.
The launch included:
- A presentation from Philip Crosbie who lives independently in Tramore and is supported by Brothers of Charity in Waterford. Philip spoke about his experience of benefiting from the support of a volunteer and also about his own experience of volunteering in his own community.
- A drama interlude from the Kaleidoscope Drama Group – a group of people with intellectual disability from Cork whose drama group is fully supported by volunteers
- A DVD from Western Care Association in Mayo outlining the experience and benefits of volunteering from the perspective of persons with an intellectual disability, families, volunteers and staff.
At the launch, Minister Carey outlined that “we all recognise that volunteering plays an important part in active citizenship and social inclusion, through strengthening our local communities, in particular enhancing the community involvement of people with intellectual disabilities and facilitating their involvement in mainstream activities. Volunteers also have a vital role to play in breaking down barriers and enabling awareness, working to reduce and minimize the levels of social exclusion and isolation that might be experienced by people with intellectual disability.” The Minister also highlighted “that as social creatures, our greatest human impulse is that instinctual desire to connect with others, either to make a connection of friendship or to help another, to want to make a difference in someone else’s life. Volunteers make a very significant contribution to society by giving of their time for the benefit of others without seeking any form of payment or monetary reward.”
Members of the Kaleidoscope Drama Group create a colourful on-stage collage during their drama performance at the volunteering launch
Findings from the Survey
The findings from the volunteering survey indicate that in 33 National Federation member organisations, over 3,000 volunteers are contributing approximately 7 hours per month to the social inclusion of people who avail of intellectual disability services, making volunteering an integral part of community activity within these organisations. The contribution of volunteers is greatly valued and respected and their contribution is celebrated by member organisations.
The most successful methods of volunteer recruitment are through local bulletins/newsletters, by word of mouth and through advertisements in the local press and posters. Members of Boards of Management, Fundraisers, Befrienders / Best Buddies and Support Workers are the main roles provided by volunteers. Volunteer skills, talents and interests are matched with the needs of the person who avails of intellectual disability services. Volunteering supports are provided by member organisations on both a formal and an informal basis. While the majority of organisations do not have a formal written volunteering policy, a number of these organizations have plans to develop a written volunteering policy in the near future.
Volunteering supports people with intellectual disability to really connect with people in their own communities, to have a better quality of life and make new friendships. It also supports them to be active citizens in their own communities, thereby achieving their full potential and living the life of their choice. Volunteering also supports people with intellectual disability to develop new skills through their participation in activities e.g. recreation, arts, sports and to have positive valued social roles within their own community.
Volunteers see their volunteering activities as an opportunity to give something back to their community, to use the experience as a stepping stone to employment and to experience personal satisfaction i.e. feel-good factor.
Volunteering activities in intellectual disability services support the recommendations of the Government Taskforce on Active Citizenship and Government’s commitment to people with intellectual disability to enable them to live the life of their own choice in their own community. They also support the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in particular Article 19 which outlines “States Parties to the present Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community…..” (Article 19, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006).
A copy of the report “Volunteering in Intellectual Disability Services in Ireland: “Supporting People to Live the Life of their own Choice in their own Community” is available here.