Speeches

Speech for Ms Mary Wallace at the launch of BRÍ National Acquired Brain Injury Awareness Weekend, Mansion House, Dublin

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. I am delighted to be here with you today at the launch of the BRÍ National Acquired Brain Injury Awareness Weekend. I would like to begin by thanking Ned Rispin of BRÍ for his kind invitation to officially launch this event and to highlight for you some of the work carried out by this wonderful organisation.

BRÍ

BRÍ, the Acquired Brain Injury Advocacy Association, is widely appreciated for its valued work across the country in providing support to those affected by acquired brain injury and to their families and carers in raising awareness at both local and national level of acquired brain injury and in operating a number of support groups in various parts of the country. These support groups are of tremendous benefit to a great number of people affected by acquired brain injury.

Support groups provide the opportunity for members to meet on a regular basis, to exchange experiences and insights and to offer one another practical help. Such peer support is of critical importance in assisting individuals with an acquired brain injury and their carers.

It is to BRÍ’s credit that it is currently engaged in the process of expanding its support service and is developing new additional support groups in several areas around the country. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the good work of these groups and to wish BRÍ well as it expands the service.

Acquired Brain Injury

Families inevitably face major trauma with the sudden onset of illness or injury in a loved one. The needs of an affected individual can be quite unique to their particular condition and often present major challenges, for the individual themselves, for their families and carers and for service providers. A key challenge for many individuals is having to adjust to a loss of some, or indeed all independence and learning to overcome other people’s lack of awareness or understanding of what has happened. Also it is frequently not possible to predict the long term outcome for an affected individual so there can be great uncertainty in terms of what the future holds.

Appropriate care and support are critical to assisting individuals with acquired brain injury to achieve their maximum potential in life. It is now recognised that people with acquired brain injury are a distinctive group. I am happy to be able to say that health service professionals now have a greater awareness of this condition and the specific needs of individuals with acquired brain injury and are working to develop a client-centred approach to the provision of services that is both integrated and multi-disciplinary.

Rehabilitation

A core element of service provision in this instance is rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is fundamentally about enabling and supporting individuals to recover or adjust during this time, to achieve their full potential and, where possible, to live full and active lives.

National Strategy for Rehabilitation Services

The Government acknowledges that a clear policy direction is needed on rehabilitation. With this in mind, the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive are embarking on the development of a National Strategy for Rehabilitation Services. A Working Group was established in July this year to develop the strategy.

The Working Group consists of key stakeholders and experts in the field of rehabilitation and is chaired by James O’Grady, Policy Advisor to the Office for Disability and Mental Health. Its Terms of Reference include the development of an appropriate policy framework for rehabilitation and a preferred model of care for the provision of rehabilitation services.

The Group will consider the rehabilitation needs of people with static and progressive neurological conditions, traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury and other physically disabling conditions who may benefit from medical, psychological and/or social rehabilitation service provision. The Group will also work with the Neurological Alliance of Ireland and will undertake a public consultation process as part of its work. It is proposed that the Group will complete its work in the first half of 2009.

I understand that BRÍ’s Chairman Michael Clavin is on the Working Group developing the Rehabilitation strategy.

Disability Policy

I would like to refer briefly to the broader disability agenda and reiterate this Government’s commitment to improving specialist support services for people with disabilities.

One of the most positive features of disability services here in Ireland is the very strong partnership that now exists between all those involved in the planning and delivery of services serving people with disabilities and their families. This partnership includes the Government, the Health Service Executive, voluntary agencies, families and friends and, of course, people with disabilities themselves.

The Disability Act 2005, which is part of the National Disability Strategy, provides for a comprehensive framework for delivering services to people with disabilities. The principle of equity is brought into sharp focus by the Disability Act, which for the first time, provides a statutory right to an assessment of individual need, leading in turn to a service statement.

The Disability legislation is underpinned by the Multi-Annual Investment Programme announced in the Budget of 2005. Since 2006, over €550 million has been allocated to the HSE under the Multi-Annual Investment Programme, of which €425 million was for disability services and €125 million for Mental Health.

In Budget 2009, an additional €10 million was allocated to the Health Service Executive. This funding will provide for 125 additional therapy posts in the disability and mental health services, targeted at children of school-going age. 90 of these additional 125 posts will be provided in the disability service area.

Office for Disability and Mental Health

I would also like to mention another key development in the area of disability, namely the Government’s decision in January 2008 to establish the Office for Disability and Mental Health.

The purpose of this Office is to support the Minister for Disability & Mental Health in exercising his responsibilities across four Government Departments: Health & Children; Education & Science; Enterprise, Trade & Employment and Justice, Equality & Law Reform.

The new Office brings together responsibility for a range of different policy areas and State services which directly impact on the lives of people with a disability and people with mental health issues.

It is true that while very substantial progress has been made in recent years in the areas of disability and mental health much remains to be done. In particular, there is a need to improve co-ordination and communication across different Government Departments and agencies in their delivery of services. This will be the main focus for the new Office.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for your attention and to acknowledge again the valuable contribution that BRI makes in respect of supporting and advocating for all those affected by acquired brain injury. I have no doubt that this weekend’s events will be of great benefit in terms of heightening awareness and understanding of the complexities presented by acquired brain injury. I wish BRÍ, and everyone involved with its work, every success for the future.