BIG READ: Wheelchair Association frontline staff step up to face new challenge

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Martin Quinn

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Martin Quinn

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news@nationalist.ie

Tipperary Tipperary Tipperary

Christopher Ryan (Tipperary Town) painting the IWA Messages of Hope project

The Irish Wheelchair Association, as a national organisation, had to re-imagine the way in which it provided services when Covid-19 arrived to our shores last year.

Overnight the community centres, where people with physical disabilities received social support, training and therapies, had to close temporarily.

Instead of stepping down however, the frontline staff of the Irish Wheelchair Association stepped up.

Service Coordinator, Josephine Carroll, says that she could not be more proud of how each of the team have worked throughout this pandemic.

“In south Tipperary we have a 22 strong team of frontline workers that provide a day centre and outreach service, supported independent living service and an assisted living service that supports people in their homes with personal care and important household tasks.

"Because of Covid our immediate priority was to protect our members and to ensure that the most vulnerable had all the supports they required to ensure that they were taken care of throughout this pandemic.”

South Tipperary Irish Wheelchair Association has a very large demographic spread and every day all three of their buses are on the road visiting members from Carrick-on-Suir, Monard, Cashel, Clonmel, Thurles, Tipperary Town, Lattin, Ballingarry, Fethard, Ardfinnan, Burncourt, Cahir, Dundrum and every road in between.

The staff are determined to make sure nobody feels isolated or alone. Instead of coming in attending the community centre, the social and training supports are delivered to people with physical disabilities in their own homes. Josephine said:

“Groceries are delivered, prescriptions are filled, domestic assistance is provided, transport to hospitals and doctors’ appointments are kept.

"Entertainment packs full of activities were designed and delivered by our outreach workers, which often contained generous donations from individuals and businesses of chocolates, face masks and basic necessities and in-home respite was provided to those that required it, giving carers a badly deserved break.”

Another initiative that the IWA staff have been undertaking is using their buses to support the HSE to transport Covid testers and testing equipment to people in residential settings, such as nursing homes and homes for people with disabilities.

Josephine added: “A core team of staff have stepped up and volunteered to be a part of an Emergency Response Team that can support people with physical disabilities who have to isolate. They have had full training in the use of enhanced Personal Protective Equipment should they be required to support anyone who may have Covid symptoms or be diagnosed Covid positive. Because of the reduced capacity in our community centre, and as restrictions eased last year, hubs were formed in other community settings and the Irish Wheelchair Association is very grateful for the support we have received in establishing these hubs, one in Ardfinnan Community Centre and another in Larkspur Park in Cashel, which ran alongside the in-centre service in Tipperary Town.”

With the current rise in Covid-19 cases and the Level 5 restrictions announced recently, Josephine wants to reassure their members that they are still there for them.

“We will continue with our home visits and any additional support that may be required such as delivering shopping, entertainment packs, prescription collection, GP/hospital transport and anything else that you may require.

“If you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask. With vaccines on the horizon, there is hope that the situation will improve.”