Inaugural Progressing Disabilities Services (PDS) conference in Limerick

Today, Friday 1st December 2017, Finian McGrath TD, Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Disabilities addressed the Working to Support Children and Young People with a Disability and their Families Conference, part of the HSE’s Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People programme.

Organised by the National Progressing Disability Services (PDS) for Children and Young People Working Group, comprised of HSE and children’s disability service providers, the conference took place at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

The conference brought together more than 300 parents and staff to share learning and good practice in the provision of disability services for children and young people, and was an opportunity to explore innovative ideas and celebrate achievements to date. A further 550+ delegates joined the conference via Webinar.

The main aim of the conference was to:
- Promote achievements of Children’s Disability Network Teams in place as part of National Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme (PDS)
- Showcase/spread good work practices within Children’s Disability Services
- Provide support for parents and staff of children’s disability services who are currently planning their reconfiguration into Children’s Disability Network Teams
- Promote HSE/Voluntary Organisations partnership working for optimal benefits of children and young people with a disability and their families
- Launch new PDS website

The delegates heard presentations from children’s disability teams, schools, clinicians and parents and participated in plenary sessions and practical workshops. Diverse topics such as working with families, a parent’s perspective, assessment for autism, parents’ support groups and helping children to sleep better which demonstrated the concept of working in partnership and PDS in action were discussed.

The PDS programme acknowledges the scale of the change plan underway and the issues faced by children with a disability and their families across the country. While there are some very good services for children with a disability and their families there are also some large gaps. There may be a service for children with an intellectual disability in a locality, but none for children with a physical disability. Some children and their families have little or no access to services.

The basic tenet underpinning PDS is to find a fairer way to provide services for all children with disabilities, based on a child’s needs rather than on their diagnosis and where they live. PDS is changing the way services are provided across the country to make it equitable and consistent for all.

Dr Cathal Morgan, HSE Head of Operations, Social Care Division said ‘Up to now our services for children with disabilities, which are delivered by non-statutory organisations as well as the HSE, have varied throughout the country resulting in inequity of access and inconsistency. By reorganising staff into Children’s Disability Network Teams for every area, the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People programme will mean every child will have access to services according to their needs.’

Currently Local Implementation Groups, made up of representatives of services and parents, are working out how services can be reorganised to achieve this improved structure and operation of services in their area. In the Mid West and Meath, services had already changed to this structure prior to the programme and they are continuing to work towards achieving the aims and objectives of the programme. In Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, Laois, Offaly, Longford, Westmeath, Louth and Donegal, Early Intervention Teams have been formed and they are now preparing to roll out School Age Teams.

Services in West Cork, Kerry and Kildare/West Wicklow have reconfigured in recent years into Children’s Disability Network Teams and they are now focussed on developing their services and resolving any issues arising from implementing these major changes. The other local implementation groups are currently planning their changes. Until Children’s Disability Network Teams are formed children’s disability services continue to be provided by non-statutory organisations and the HSE.

Speaking at the conference, Minister Finian McGrath said, ‘The reconfiguration of children’s disability services is a key priority for the Government, the Department of Health and for me as the Minister for Disabilities. First class early intervention services and services for school-aged children with disabilities are paramount and they need to be improved and organised more effectively. I am delighted to note this process is well under way nationwide.’

Also addressing the delegates, Professor Michael Healy, Associate Vice President for Research, Mary Immaculate College added, ‘It is most pleasing to witness collaboration between Mary Immaculate College and the HSE in operation at this conference. Our common ground, jointly and independently, is the delivery of services and support to the people who need it most to achieve their potential in their lives. Delivery of critical services in changing economic, cultural and educational circumstances is a great challenge but one that is our responsibility to meet. This is particularly the case in supporting those who are most vulnerable in our society. The work to be undertaken here today under the title “Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People” represents the commitment of the education and health sectors to work together to bring about positive changes that make a real difference to those experiencing special needs in their lives. I hope that the work that this conference represents, in and of itself, acknowledges in some way all of those who work across the disability sector to make this happen, including families, advocates, service providers and service users in particular.’

The PDS Programme is one of three being implemented by the HSE and its partner agencies under the Transforming Lives Programme of reform in Disability Services.

To find out more about PDS visit and follow #pdsconf on Twitter.

Last updated on: 01 / 12 / 2017