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'very hard' Disability support services another casualty of Covid-19


Paul Crilly

Paul Crilly

Paul Crilly

As a person living independently with an intellectual disability, Paul Crilly knows better than most the value of practical supports and social interaction.

Support workers, speech therapists and counsellors have helped transform his life, giving him the confidence to live independently and express himself.

For Paul, the simple things matter - the lift to a match to watch his beloved Waterford FC, the assistance with writing an email or filling in a form, the helping hand with housework. But now the Kilkenny man faces a second lockdown with support hours slashed and his social interactions curtailed. It's been a very difficult time, he says.

"I used to get 15 support hours a week, prior to Covid it went down to ten. When Covid hit I was brought down to three. I'm back up to five hours now. The support didn't filter down to people like myself who were not attached to a day service.

"My mam had to take over a lot of the services, like the ironing and helping me with the housework, doing the stuff that the service would have been doing prior to Covid. And if I want to buy stuff online she helps me out with that too. She's a great mam. Both she and my family have helped look after me over the last couple of months."

For adults like Paul with a mild intellectual disability, Covid has brought enormous difficulties. Not only has navigating daily life become more of a challenge, for Paul, the lack of social interaction has been a real strain.

"I'm living independently but I get a lot of support when it comes to practical stuff. I need things in an accessible format. I need extra time to be able to understand what to do.

"For example, I find timetables very hard to understand. I'd love to see more awareness around accessible information for people with intellectual disabilities. I feel not enough is being done for people with intellectual disabilities in collaboration with them.

"I have anxiety as well, so my needs would be complex. Up to a few years ago I had no speech and language therapy and that helped me get great confidence. I did need it because I needed help with expressing myself. "

Covid has been very difficult for people like Paul. The reduction in support hours has made its presence felt, while it is the daily interactions with people he meets socially that impact on him the most.

"It was very hard for me during the first lockdown. At level two I would go down to the coffee dock in my local gym. It was a great social outlet for me to chat about the weather, but that's all gone.

"The assistance hours' people would help me with budgeting, housework, or bringing me to a soccer match - I support Waterford FC. I got to know some of the supporters and it was good for my confidence. Support workers would help me with my emails, making sure that what I was sending was the right stuff. Covid has brought up a lot of issues. The are others like me who are in the same boat."

Paul has recently set up a self-advocacy group called Social Ability Carlow Kilkenny. He wants to see people with mild intellectual disabilities more involved in decisions that affect them in the community. In Covid times, he feels this is more important than ever.

"It's the social interaction I miss badly. That really put a smile on my face to have something to look forward to. Covid has been very much of a struggle for me. A lot of people with a mild intellectual disability find it difficult. We need to start listening to people who it's happening to on the ground."

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