Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI) was established as the first Irish Center for Independent Living in 1992 by and for disabled people with the main aim that disabled people achieved Independent Living, choice and control over their lives and full participation in society as equal citizens.
CIL: Establishing the Personal Assistance Service
The Personal Assistance Services that are now available in Ireland came into existence in 1992 with a two-year pilot project that was initially run by CIL. It was recognised that in order to further the Independent Living Movement in Ireland, a consumer controlled Personal Assistance Service would be essential. The key idea was a service which would assist disabled people in all aspects of daily living, provide assistance rather then care and is directed and controlled by the service user.
The programme, funded under the European Union Horizon Community Initiative, started in December 1992. It involved 29 leaders and 45 personal assistants. The programme aimed, for the first time in Ireland, to develop a range of personal assistance services managed and controlled by people with disabilities.
It also sought to ensure that personal assistants were themselves educated and trained in the skills, knowledge and attitudes required to provide a professional Personal Assistance service.
This CIL action research programme aimed to promote and develop the concept of independent living for people with significant physical disabilities and, in particular, to research, design and implement programmes aimed at Providing a range of appropriate Personal Assistance services (PAS) and educating both Leaders (Participants with physical disabilities) and Personal Assistants (PA) in the acquisition of positive attitudes and skills pertinent to the realisation of efficient services in this area.
The Final Evaluation conducted on this project in 1994 highlighted a number of benefits and results.
- The positive effect on individuals being able, for the first time, to take control of their own lives and exercise choice
- Ending of dependence and ability to see independent living as right not a privilege.
- Enhanced social participation and involvement.
- Improvement in education (27.5% were able to use the PAS to attend college).
- Improvement in training options (18% were able to avail of further training).
- Improvement in employment access and conditions (50% noted enhanced employment options as a result of the project).
- Improved subjective sense of awareness and empowerment.
- Development of knowledge and skills.
There is no doubt that this project made an important impact in the quality of life for those participants with disabilities. It also provided training and employment opportunities for the Personal Assistants – as well as providing professional training and skills in this new field. At wider level the project indicated the potential for development and expansion of the concept and practice of independent living. The improvement in opportunity offered by this initiative would resonate in CIL and provided the foundation for much later progress.
After the success of the pilot project the administration of Personal Assistance was entrusted to Service Provision Agencies, such as the Irish Wheelchair Association, and Enable Ireland, although some regional CILs remained involved with Service Provision.
Today the Service Provider assesses a potential service user for need; the Leader is then allocated a number of PA hours by taking into account his or her individual requirements and the number of service hours available to that user.
Once a Leader has been approved for funding and his or her requirements have been established, the Leader enters into a contract with the Service Provider, undergoes a period of training, and then Personal Assistants are either employed directly by the Leader or recruited through the Service Provider. While the Service Provider directly employs the Personal Assistant, the Leader acts as line manager, and directs the work of the Personal Assistant.