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IWA programme assistants John Fitzsimons, Catherine Earley, (Service Co-ordinator) Linda O Grady, Tracey Fitzgerald, Tracey Fitzgerald, Brian Mc Loughlin, Johnny Crawford, supervisor and Gerry Murray, packing PPE to be distributed to personal assistants in the homes of people with disabilities around the county. Photograph by John Kelly

Wheelchair Association launches Clare emergency response team

THE plight faced during the lock-down by those with physical disabilities has been highlighted by front line workers with the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) in Clare.

The IWA has developed a mobile outreach services to respond to the needs of 55 members, many of who are cocooning due to the increased risk to their health posed by Covid-19. The organisation has also raised concerns about the funds needed to keep its services in place, as key fund-raising, including its networks of shops, has been suspended.

An emergency response team continues to reach people with disabilities and provide advice, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and services including shopping and bill payment. Coordinator of the service, Catherine Earley said the lock-down was severely affecting people with physical disabilities.

“This is a very worrying time for people who use our services and are dependent on our assistance to allow them to remain living safely in their own homes,” she explained. “Many of them are aware that due to their disability they are extremely vulnerable to Covidassis-19. Members of our community outreach and assisted living teams are among the many heroic front-line healthcare staff who are courageously committed to reaching the most vulnerable during this very difficult time.”

Ms Earley said the outreach team were mindful of the additional risks for people with disabilities at this time and added that the IWA was an essential point-of-contact: “Our assisted living workers are visiting people’s homes, helping them to live independently and to carry out vital everyday tasks such as personal care, cooking and household chores. Our outreach team is providing social support such as shopping, collecting prescriptions, providing transport to banks and post offices, helping people to pay on-line bills and assisting people to apply for welfare payments as well as calling for a chat both in person and on the phone.”

The organisation is also conscious of the impact that the closure of day centres is having, Ms Earley added, and said efforts were being made to address that: “Activities that would usually take place in our community centres are being brought to people’s homes, such as arts and crafts. We are developing an on-line physical and mental wellness package, so people can access low-impact exercise classes and mindfulness tools to help people stay well physically and mentally as the crisis takes hold.”

IWA staff have come forward in large numbers in Clare to volunteer to provide as much support to members are possible, and have been trained in the use of PPE and protocols around working in a high-risk environment.

“This emergency team will work on a case-by-case basis supporting essential care needs,” Ms Earley noted. “This level of determination and willingness of our front-line staff is a testament to the dedication they have to the people they support and their willingness to go above and beyond in their work.”

Because of the pandemic, the IWA has been forced to postpone its nationwide fund-raising activities and close its network of shops, including the one on Francis Street in Ennis.

“Each year Irish Wheelchair Association needs to raise €2 million over and above our HSE funding to keep our vital services running,” Ms Earley said. “We are aware that it is a difficult time for everyone and we’re asking people to make a donation to support our front-line workers, if they can afford to. More details are available on iwa.ie.” Details of IWA services in Clare are available by calling 065-6844150, or emailing ennis@iwa.ie.


About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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