On Tuesday 10th September NAS launched its Annual Report 2018, at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
The launch 2018 celebrated a significant year of growth for NAS, as the number of people who used the NAS service increased, NAS launched its first strategic plan and was awarded a Department of Health contract to develop a new, independent Patient Advocacy Service.
In 2018 NAS provided full representative advocacy to 916 people across Ireland, a 7% increase on 2017. NAS also provided information and short-term advocacy support in 3,025 instances, an 8% increase on the previous year.
NAS staff worked on a range of complex, multi-issue advocacy cases, and continued to demonstrate the importance of advocacy across many sectors, from housing (50% cases) to healthcare (22%), to parenting with a disability (8%), justice (12%) and family issues (7%).
Housing and accommodation remains by far the largest issues that NAS advocates work on, with 50% of all NAS representative advocacy cases involving an issues relating to housing. People with disabilities face an even more challenging landscape when it comes to housing than others in society during this housing crisis.
For example, in 2018 NAS has worked with people with intellectual disabilities or autism who face particular challenges in the homelessness system. The housing issue also includes people inappropriately accommodated in residential settings, those stuck in acute hospitals because of a lack of appropriate housing upon discharge and difficulties faced by people with disabilities navigating the social housing list.
NAS advocates repeatedly face the issue of a lack of resources from the HSE for personal assistance hours and home care packages. Our advocates have worked with a diverse range of people with disabilities who have ended up living in entirely inappropriate accommodation on the basis of a lack of personal assistance hours to allow them to live independently in the community or place of their choice. For example, over the past three years NAS advocates have worked with well over 100 people with disabilities under the age of 65 living in nursing homes for the elderly, because of a lack of the necessary supports in their area to live at home, or in a more appropriate setting.
Citizens Information Board CEO Angela Black opened the launch, and outlined the many important services that CIB support, and particularly highlighted the new NAS website as enhancing the NAS service.
Sarah O’Callaghan from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection delivered a speech on behalf of Minister Regina Doherty, congratulating NAS on its work, and confirming the continued support and work in the Department to grant statutory powers to NAS advocates to strengthen NAS’ advocacy work.
Liz Halton, a person who worked with NAS advocate for County Meath Kavita Sharma, presented at the Report launch her story on how advocacy support assisted her to move out of a nursing home setting. Kavita Sharma then outlined the important role of an advocate in making sure the voice, will and preferences of a person with a disability is heard when a decision is being made that affects them.
The NAS Annual Report 2018 outlines a series of case studies which demonstrate how advocacy support can promote the equality and protect the human rights of people with disabilities.
Louise Loughlin, the NAS National Manager, gave a broad overview of the work of the organisation, and spoke about the systemic social policy issues which NAS advocates face through their advocacy work.
Another highlight of 2018 was the awarding of a new contact by the Department of Health to NAS, to develop and establish a new, independent, Patient Advocacy Service this year. The Patient Advocacy Service is a commitment in the programme for a partnership government, and was commissioned on the back of recommendations by both HIQA and the Ombudsman for independent support to be made available to people who wish to make a complaint about their experience in a publically funded Irish health care setting. NAS was delighted with the endorsement of the Department of Health to establish this crucial new service which will have an initial go-live on 31st October.
Loughlin thanked attendees for their continued support as NAS pursues its “vision in NAS of an Ireland were people with disabilities can exercise their rights across society with dignity and equality.”