SCARIFF’S Joe McGrath is a well-known and popular member of the community involved in many local projects. Just recently, he was one of the main speakers at a major national conference.
Twenty years ago, Joe, who has an intellectual disability, could only imagine that he could become such a vital member of the community.
Nowadays, as manager of a coffee shop as well as being involved in other local endeavours, he is a real example of the importance of inclusiveness for people with disabilities.
Joe first came to the Brothers of Charity Clare in 1990, and as he says himself, “I began developing as a person. Back then, I had no ambitions to be involved with so many things but that changed.”
Joe is no longer supported by a traditional day service, instead he is supported by the Brothers of Charity’s community outreach team.
As well as managing the coffee shop, Joe has been working for Irish Seed Savers since 2001 and combines this with youth work through the local CDP.
His work in the coffee shop led him into research with Australian academic Kelley Johnson, who is currently Professor of Disability Policy and Practice at Bristol University.
The research looked at the function of the café in the community “We asked people about what they wanted to see in the café, what they would like to see improved. One of the recommendations was that there should be wheelchair access and that’s what we have now,” he said.
That research was recently presented to the 12th
Annual National Advocacy Conference hosted by Clare services in the Clare Inn, Dromoland with a direct video linked up with Kelley at her Bristol base. Rob Hopkins of Brothers of Charity Clare explained that nowadays, their work is about
helping people with disabilities feel a sense of belonging within their local community.
“People need to feel that they belong and Joe is an example of a person living that life. And through research, people can show how they can and do perform a variety of different roles in their community.”
“The Brothers of Charity in Clare see their role, not to be providers of the cradle to the grave, cotton wool, service of times past. Our role is to help support people to make contacts in the community and become valued citizens. There is an awareness out there that this is what we are meant to be doing now, not just looking after people to keep them safe. We’re not talking about abandoning people and leaving them vulnerable. But like anybody, people need to be supported to learn by their mistakes, take risks, help them with their disappointments, to get sad, get happy, go through a range of emotions.
“People with disabilities are involved in much more these days and they want to have greater involvement, with jobs, the community, having their own home. It’s a way of belonging.”
This is something that Joe certainly agrees with.
“There is definitely a sense of belonging there for me. I feel that I can go and meet a lot of people. A lot of people know me from being around Scariff and the surroundings and it’s very important that people with disabilities are seen out in their communities and not in institutions, where they were sent and left by themselves with nothing to do. It’s better to be out there and working, I’ve been working with the Irish Seed Savers in Capparoe for around 10 years,” he said.
“The way the service is changing is making people more aware of people with disabilities as being part of the community. You will see a lot of people with disabilities working now, which you wouldn’t have seen before. The Brothers of Charity have placed a lot of people through the Clare Supported Employment Service, who are doing wonderful work for people with disabilities,” he said.