Modernisation of Support Delivery for Persons with Disabilities in Ireland: Lessons from Comparative Law & Policy

Lead Researcher: Dr. Andrew Power

Given the recent and growing emphasis in national policy on a more individualised, ‘person-centred’ approach to supporting people with disabilities and mental illness, this study is being developed to examine comparatively how different jurisdictions have grappled with the modernisation of good individualised models of support.

A key priority to achieve this is to undertake a system analysis with other countries to identify the factors that facilitate and/or constrain person-centred models under the following three focus areas: (1) Personalisation, (2) choice in living arrangements, and (3) life in the community, outlined below.

This study in intended to build on recent national policy reports within Ireland by showcasing the transformation process in the US, England, Northern Ireland, Canada and Australia.

The main objective is to examine the infrastructure of welfare and disability governance and identify common challenges and problems that other countries have encountered in the unbundling process involved in moving towards individualised support systems. It therefore hopes to make practical proposals, from the findings of the comparative analysis, which identify:

  • How law and policy has enabled change;
  • How individualised support provision has been funded;
  • How evaluations have monitored this progress;
  • Advocacy initiatives that have worked well;
  • The necessary safeguards which ensure the dignity of individuals;
  • Common challenges (short, medium and long-term) in achieving better support;
  • Opportunities for developing better talent management, capacity building, and innovation;
  • Making partnerships between sectors more effective.

Focus Areas

Underpinning the analysis of the policy climate in each respective country, the study will examine how this climate supports or limits person-centred models under the following three focus areas:

1. Personalisation

At its core, this concept means a more personalised approach to the design and delivery of services which gives people more choice over the supports that best meet their wishes. While this has benefits for all, for persons with disabilities and mental illness, recognising the wishes of each person is an essential starting point for achieving equal citizenship. People should have real choice and control over their lives and services through individualised options and person centred planning, underpinned by strong self-advocacy and/or family care support. 
To meet this end, the study will focus on personalised options in the design and delivery of supports and examine the implications of this for statutory and non- statutory bodies. To support people to do this, the Modernisation project aims to identify in each country the barriers and success factors to:

  • Individualised budgets;
  • Independent fiscal support;
  • Regional and local advocacy support;
  • A learning by doing approach;
  • Person centred transition initiatives.

2. Choice in Living Arrangements

This is recognition of the importance of allowing all people to have the opportunity to have more choice and control over their place of residence and where and with whom they live. This means that we should not be obliged to live in a particular living arrangement. Inherent in this is a recognition that people with disabilities should have access to the personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community. This study therefore is concerned with examining the organisational climate which helps this happen in each country including:

  • Public Housing Options
  • Independent Living Options;
  • Community Support Provision;
  • Programmes to move people from congregated residential centres;
  • New housing initiatives.

3. Life in the Community (for all people)

The aim here is to shift from providing service to being of support in order to improve life chances and achieve dignity and equality for people with disabilities and mental illness. This includes joined up working between adult social services, the employment and education sectors, informal networks, and mainstream public services in an effort to help people to get better lives.

For people with severely compromised intellectual or physical functioning, this goal is also relevant to ensure they have independent advocacy to ensure they can have as much autonomy in their care supports as possible. Central to this will be a comparative focus on:

  • Independent planning;
  • Community connecting (befriending, PLAN, Microboard schemes etc.);
  • Quality employment support and training;
  • Innovative funding initiatives (Trusts, savings plans, etc.).

Irish National Scale

At the national scale, the Modernisation Project’s main aim is to capture a bird’s eye view of the overall infrastructure of welfare and disability governance, in which individual service providers have to work.

The study will carry out a detailed literature review of contemporary Irish disability law and policy, as well as recent policy reports from government and third-sector.

Comparative scale

At the comparative scale, the study will carry out a detailed literature review of national policy and strategy documents, service evaluations and research reports in each country.

This will be followed by 2-4 weeks’ fieldwork visits in order to get a more in-depth perspective on the disability support system. Interviews will be carried out with policy experts including key researchers, advocacy bodies, government officials, and service providers.