Adults with Down syndrome struggle with isolation and job losses as a result of Covid-19

Down syndrome Ireland (DSI) and charity partners MACE, Ireland’s longest established convenience retailer, have launched a national fundraising campaign to support adults with Down syndrome experiencing isolation and limited job opportunities due to Covid-19.

DSI’s Ability Programme has been working to break down barriers and provide people with Down syndrome with access to meaningful employment opportunities through bespoke adult education and direct links with employers around the country.

The Covid-19 pandemic has left many adults with Down syndrome more isolated and has resulted in job losses and limited options to engage with further education and other life activities. More than 95 percent of graduates employed following DSI’s Ability programme have been furloughed, with 2 being supported to work remotely since the pandemic. Additionally, 80 percent of adults with Down syndrome say they are unable to find courses that are interesting and accessible in their local communities.

In response to members’ concerns, DSI have developed “Ability Online,” a ten-week adult education course that can be delivered remotely and combines online tasks and group Zoom discussions.

Through its charity partnership with the MACE retail group, which has been renewed for the next two years, DSI can make the course available to older people with Down syndrome living in Ireland. Up to now, the organisation has been curtailed from developing this programme fully because funding constraints only allowed registration of students younger than 29 years on the Ability online course. DSI and MACE aim to raise enough funds to provide the course to every adult over the age of 29 with Down syndrome in Ireland.

An initial €10,000 raised by MACE Retailers will allow DSI to set up and deliver the first 10-week-online course, with every €5,000 raised thereafter providing funds for an additional course. Funds will be raised through a combination of countertop charity boxes in MACE stores across the country, a contribution from the sale of selected MACE own brand products and, COVID-19 restrictions allowing, a number of fundraising activities later in the year.

Daniel O’Connell MACE Sales Director said: “In the last 12months, MACE retailers have seen first-hand just how important our contribution is to the communities we serve and above all, in helping those most vulnerable. We are extremely proud, therefore, to have renewed our partnership with DSI and to support this initiative which will provide meaningful opportunities to adults with Down syndrome to engage, socialise and look for employment opportunities.”

Commenting on the launch of the campaign, Down syndrome Ireland CEO Barry Sheridan said:We are delighted to have renewed our partnership with MACE, and in particular, to launch this year’s fundraising campaign as many of our members struggle with the impact of the pandemic.”

“There are a broad range of benefits to having courses like Ability Online available. For example, adults with Down syndrome in Ireland have the highest incidence of early onset dementia. Engaging in education, working and getting to meet and socialise with other people daily are huge factors in fighting against early onset dementia.”

“Without this extra support, people with Down syndrome will struggle to engage in meaningful employment and continue to miss out on the social interaction that was absent over the past few months, as well as earning a wage and contributing to society, well after their colleagues have returned to work.”

Since adopting Down Syndrome Ireland as MACE’s official charity partner in 2017, MACE retailers have engaged in a number of initiatives designed to raise awareness and funds for the worthy charity and in the last two years have raised a total of €170,000 in funds.

MACE is the longest established convenience brand in Ireland, serving local communities for 60 years. Operated by independent retailers, the network includes local community stores as well as forecourt shopping, with over 160 stores around the country.