Next Steps Community of Practice and Learning

Introduction to the Next Steps Community

With support from the HSE, the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies facilitates the ‘Next Steps’ community of practice, which gathers together the learning of organisations who are developing individualised and self-directed supports, and provides leadership and practical help to the wider ID sector as it progresses with this movement for the people who use services. The objective is to create shared learning and practical progress in implementing national policy for services and supports to people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland. The overall aim of this work is to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities are supported to live a life of their choosing.

In spite of the economic difficulties which we are all experiencing these are exciting times for people with disabilities, their families and the staff who support them. Many service providers are reconfiguring their services to provide more appropriate community based supports. The Disability Policy Review , Tranforming Lives process, Time to Move On from Congregated Settings (HSE, 2011) and the 'New Directions review of Adult Day Services (HSE, 2012) present important opportunities for all concerned. However an essential element in availing of these opportunities is the management of the transitions to new service options that promote community participation and inclusion.

The Next Steps community has published a report called 'The Journey So Far', which details its findings to date in terms of the enablers and supports to developing indiviudalised supports in Ireland. 

Supporting service providers and people who use our services through evidence and shared learning

We believe that a key factor in supporting the movement to new individually responsive service options is practical guidance for the change management process required to transform services. To this end the National Federation have established the Next Steps Community. 

One of the first actions of Next Steps was for the participating organisations to agree a vision of individualised supports . This vision was agreed by all participants and is at the centre of the initiatives that the members are working towards.

We have taken a case-study approach to progressing with real changes that support people in living a life of their choosing. Each of the participating organisations is working with one person (or in some cases more than one person) on an individual basis, developing new types of supports in line with the agreed vision. Every two months the participants come together to share what they have learnt as they progress with this journey.

Federation members are working together in new ways to ensure best value is achieved for the initiatives developed and to ensure a multiplier effect for the learning undertaken. We are monitoring the initiatives undertaken and identifying supports and barriers in the change process, in order to share our learning in the change process with the wider Federation membership and with all key stakeholders nationally.

Next Steps Project gathered key relevant policy documents to underpin the work being undertaken at a local level. These are made available on our website for quick reference.

We have also gathered some useful tools and resources and further reading. These materials continue to be updated over time as we continue learning and sharing information.

We also developed a set of quick reference policy summaries which contain the key goals of the Disability Policy Review, the Time to Move On from Congregated Settings Report, New Directions, and the National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability.

Shared Learning Resources Gathered through dissemination events 

Over the course of the work of the Next Steps Community of Practice and Learning, a range of shared learning events have been held, to bring the knowledge gained to a wider group of individuals, family members, staff, organisations, Government Departments and state bodies. 

A selection of the presentations that have been made are provided below:

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In February 2015, The Next Steps Project was recognized as one of 39 “Innovative Practices 2015” at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna. The project was highlighted at the 2015 Zero Project Conference, an international summit on independent living and political participation attended by more than 400 experts in the field from around the world, for its achievements in supporting people with intellectual disabilities to live lives of their choosing and sharing the learning from developing individualised supports as a community of practice.



Contact us

For any queries or further details please contact the Next Steps coordinators, Alison Harnett: or; or you can phone the National Federation at 091 792316.


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