In 2016, Minister of State for Disabilities, Finian McGrath T.D. announced the establishment of the Task Force on Personalised Budgets, on foot of a commitment in the Programme for Government. Helena Walsh tells us why her role representing the voice of people with Down syndrome on the Taskforce is so important.
The Programme for Government contained a commitment to the introduction of Personalised budgets for people with disabilities. Offering people the choice of a Personalised Budget is becoming increasingly common internationally as a way of providing people with more choice and control over the services and supports they access.
The Task Force on Personalised Budgets consists of a Strategy Group and an Advisory & Consultative Group. Its remit is to make recommendations on a personalised budgets model which will give people with disabilities more control in accessing health funded personal social services, giving them greater independence and choice in accessing services which best meet their individual needs.
Helena Walsh was invited by Down Syndrome Ireland to represent the organisation on the Advisory Group. Helena was invited as a person with a disability who lives her life supported by a personalised budget. Origionally, Helena accessed this funding through a pilot scheme in Kildare funded by the HSE and as such, she is in a unique position to speak from her lived experience on the Taskforce. Our Adult Projects Officer Lisa Cahill is supporting Helena with her work in this Group.
Image, (L to R) Dharragh Hunt, Secretary of the Advisory Group, Policy and Public Affairs Advisor, National Disability Authority, Helena Walsh, Representative of Down Syndrome Ireland, Ms. Siobhan Barron, Chair of the Advisory Group, Chief Executive Officer, National Disability Authority.
Biography of Helena Walsh - Written by Helena
Helena Walsh is from Co. Kildare. She went to primary and secondary school in Kilcock. Helena is close to her family and is a confident lady. Helena has a personalised fund. This fund is routed through a brokerage agency, Possibilities Plus. An important part of Helena’s life is the assistance she gets from her circle of support. She works with her support worker, Trish, 2 days a week. Helena works at the Maynooth bookshop and at L’Horizon newsagent in Kilcock. She has completed the three year Latch-On programme with the Kildare branch of Down Syndrome Ireland. Latch-On is the Literacy and Technology Hands On adult lifelong learning programme. Helena is in a good place in her life.
Interview (written by Helena)
- Helena, what group are you a member of?
The group I am in is the Advisory Group.
- What work are you doing on the Advisory Group?
We discuss the questions about people with disabilities and what support they need. We advise the Taskforce.
- Is the work of the Advisory Group important?
The work is important because it gives advice to Minister [for Disabilities] McGrath.
- Do you enjoy the work?
I enjoy the work because I like going to the meetings and giving my opinion.
- What do you like about the Advisory Group?
The Advisory group are nice people and they listen to me. Dharragh and Siobhan are nice and they listen to my opinion.
- What do you not like about the Advisory Group?
I don’t like when people talk over each other or interrupt. It is nice when everyone listens to one another.
- What is your dream for the future of all people with a disability?
It’s a good question. Start early and figure things out. When you leave secondary school, when you do your leaving cert, you need to figure out where you are going. Even younger, you need to figure that out, when you leave primary school. You could use this money to choose your support worker, to have more choices.
It’s all part of work as well – jobs and working together and people helping out.
Did you know?
Helena is one of six people representing the interests of people with Down syndrome who are sitting on the Consultative & Advisory Group of the Government’s Taskforce on Personalised Budgets.