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National Conference for Progressing Disability Services at MIC

Ann O Byrne, Dr Brendan O Keefe, Prof Michael Healy, Prof Gerry O Brien, Finian McGrath, Ann Bouirke and Paul Bailey pictured at the ‘Working to support Children and their Families’ Inaugural Progressing Disability Services (PDS) conference in Limerick. Picture: Brian Arthur.

National Conference for Progressing Disability Services at MIC

300 delegates attended the National Conference for Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People (PDS) held at Mary Immaculate College.

The conference brought together more than 300 parents and staff to share learning and good practice in the provision of disability services for children and young people and was an opportunity to explore innovative ideas and celebrate achievements to date.  A further 500+ delegates joined the conference via Webinar. 


Welcoming the delegates to the conference Prof. Michael Healy, Associate Vice President of Research, MIC, said; “It is most pleasing to witness collaboration between Mary Immaculate College and the HSE in operation at this conference. Our common ground, jointly and independently, is the delivery of services and support to the people who need it most to achieve their potential in their lives.

The work to be undertaken here today represents the commitment of the education and health sectors to work together to bring about positive changes that make a real difference to those experiencing special needs in their lives”.

The main aim of the conference was to promote achievements of Children’s Disability Teams in place as part of National Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme (PDS), showcase/spread good work practices within Children’s Disability Services, provide support for parents and staff of children’s disability services who are currently planning their reconfiguration into Children’s Disability Teams,  and promote HSE/Voluntary Organisations partnership working for optimal benefits of children and young people with a disability and their families

The delegates heard presentations from children’s disability teams, schools, clinicians and parents and participated in plenary sessions and practical workshops. Diverse topics such as assessment for autism, parents’ support groups and helping children to sleep better which demonstrated the concept of working in partnership and PDS in action were discussed.

Also speaking at the event was Finian McGrath TD, Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Disabilities who spoke of the need to reconfigure children’s disability services. “[This} is a key priority for the Government, the Department of Health and for me as the Minister for Disabilities. First class early intervention services and services for school-aged children with disabilities are paramount and they need to be improved and organised more effectively. I am delighted to note this process is well underway nationwide”.

Currently, Local Implementation Groups, made up of representatives of services and parents, are working out how services can be reorganised to achieve this improved structure and operation of services in their area. According to Dr. Cathal Morgan, HSE Head of Operations, Social Care Division said “Up to now our services for children with disabilities, which are delivered by non-statutory organisations as well as the HSE, have varied throughout the country resulting in inequity of access and inconsistency. By reorganising staff into Children’s Disability Teams for every area, the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People programme will mean every child will have access to services according to their needs”.

The Conference, entitled Working to support Children and their Families, was organised by National Progressing Disability Services (PDS) for Children and Young People Working Group (comprised of HSE and children’s disability service providers) in association with PRISEM (Policy Research Institute for Social and Education Matters) at MIC.

According to Professor Eugene Wall, President (Acting) MIC’s track record in higher education in general, specifically its achievements and expertise in respect of special education and social inclusion enables the Institution to bring added value to this collaboration with the HSE. “We are to the fore in the formation and professional development of many of those working with children and young people in formal and non-formal settings.  Last week, we celebrated ten years of graduates in Early Childcare in Education.  We deliver the Leadership for Inclusion in the Early Years (or LINC) Programme, which is upskilling childcare and early years’ professionals.  Almost 900 people graduated from this programme this year.

In keeping with our mission statement and commitment to social inclusion, we provide a Level IV Certificate in General Learning and Personal Development.  We also have 50 Special Education Teachers enrolled in the Post Graduate Diploma in Special Educational Needs.    The Graduate Certificate in Autism Studies is running in MIC for the second time this year, with an enrolment of 50 students.  This course is delivered in partnership with the Middletown Centre for Autism” he stated. 

The PDS Programme is one of three being implemented by the HSE and its partner agencies under the Transforming Lives Programme of reform in Disability Services. Further information see

To find out more about Progressing Disability Services Programme click here

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Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.