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Breaking Barriers and Opening Doors: An Inclusive Society for All


People living with disabilities, their families and carers, local voluntary organisations and health and social care professionals have an essential contribution to make in breaking down barriers and opening doors in building an inclusive society for all. This was the key message from the Break Barriers, Open Doors Conference held on 3 December 2013 at the Dunsilly Hotel in Antrim.

The event, organised by the Health and Social Care Board to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated the many initiatives being implemented by the Board, in collaboration with partner organisations such as voluntary organisations and local Health and Social Care Trusts. It also gave recognition to the valuable contribution and involvement of people who themselves are living with disabilities.

Welcoming the celebration, Fionnuala McAndrew, Director of Social Care and Children’s Services with the Health and Social Care Board, said: “International Day of Persons with Disabilities was introduced in 1992 to mark the fact that 15% of the world’s population have a disability. This year’s theme is breaking barriers and opening doors for an inclusive society for all. Today offers us an opportunity to share the stories of individuals and organisations who are doing just that on a daily basis.

“We are taking stock of how the £2m invested by the Board is supporting the roll out of the Physical and Sensory Disability Strategy (2012-15) launched by Minister Poots last year. The Strategy’s key themes are promoting positive health, well-being and early intervention. It addresses providing better services to support independent lives and support for carers and families. The projects and initiatives celebrated today contribute to the Minister’s vision of improving services and support for people with physical and sensory disabilities.”

Projects showcased include the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust Wheelchair Project, the Action on Hearing Loss Peer Support Project, the RNIB Family Support and Parent Education Project, the Cedar Foundation Social and Community Networking Project, PANDA and the Sixth Sense Project.

Praising the partnership approach to service development for people with disabilities, Kevin Doherty, Chief Executive of Disability Action, said: “This event is an opportunity to highlight some of the work that the Physical and Sensory Disability Strategy Implementation Group has undertaken since its launch in 2012. The group’s focus on collaborative working with partner organisations is key to its success. It provides an opportunity to bring resources and knowledge together to increase the potential for improving the lives of people with disabilities.”

Addressing the conference Richard Moore, Director of Children in Crossfire, said: “I am delighted to be part of this very significant event on International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is extremely important that we continue to keep issues and challenges affecting disabled people high on everyone’s agenda. Given the right resources, given the right opportunity, disabled people throughout the world have proven that they can contribute to their communities in a positive and meaningful way.”

Bernie Kelly, Physical and Sensory Disability Service Manager at Belfast Trust, said: “Belfast Trust is working in partnership with the Health Trusts, the HSCB, voluntary sector, service users and carers to implement the regional Physical and Sensory Disability Strategy. The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an important opportunity to look at how we can make a real difference and improvement to the lives of people with disabilities.”

Many of the pilot initiatives developed to address the actions in the Physical and Sensory Disability Strategy also support the delivery of the health and social care reform recommended in Transforming Your Care (TYC). TYC represents a radical change to how and where health and social services are delivered locally. The community access model for people with physical disabilities, and, the Hear to Help model for supporting hearing aid users delivered by Action on Hearing Loss, provide ways to make services much more accessible in local communities. Key priorities of Transforming Your Care are delivering care closer to people’s homes and supporting more people to live independently.