IWA’s frontline workers in Clonakilty supporting people with physical disabilities in their homes

Mark Barry receives art and IWA weekly entertainment pack with sunflower from Sinéad Burke.

Irish Wheelchair Association’s frontline workers are delivering vital services to people with physical disabilities in homes in West Cork throughout the COVID-19 crisis. The organisation has also set up an emergency response team to continue to reach people with disabilities, who may become sick with the coronavirus and isolated.

Sinéad Burke, Service Support Officer, Clonakilty, said: “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. Many of them are aware that due to their disability, they are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Members of our community outreach and assisted living teams are among the many heroic frontline healthcare staff who are courageously committed to reaching the most vulnerable during this very difficult time.”

The IWA 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.

IWA staff Patricia O’Donovan delivers weekly entertainment pack to IWA service user John Nyhan

The outreach team is providing social support such as shopping, collecting prescriptions, providing transport to banks and post offices, helping people to pay online bills and assisting people in applying for welfare payments, as well as calling for a chat both in person and on the phone.

“Activities that would usually take place in our community centres are being brought to people’s homes, such as arts and crafts,” explains Sinead. “We are developing an online 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.”

Service User Marco Sabatini Corleone receives shopping and essential items from staff Sinéad Burke.

The Clonakilty service also had the delicious homemade breads that they serve in the centre delivered to their service users over the Easter break, along with Easter Eggs, and sunflower seeds to sow. Included in the care pack were weekly mindful tips that Mindful Facilitator Susan O’Regan has kindly supported the association with.

Every delivery comes with a friendly face and a chat to service users, at a social distance of course. “Service users are delighted to see the familiar face of the IWA staff, and to get the reassurance that we will get through this and that we are there to support them throughout this difficult time,” says Sinead.

“The new emergency response team will act as a third layer of support following family and the HSE, if one of our service users has to go into self-isolation. Since the start of March, we have recruited a large number of volunteers from our staff and started training them in the use of PPE and the protocols around working in a high-risk environment.

Service User Hans Otterlo drops by in his car to deliver a thank you card and apple tart to IWA staff, he also receives his sunflower and entertainment pack from staff.

“This emergency team will work on a case-by-case basis supporting essential care needs. This level of determination and willingness of our frontline 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.”

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Irish Wheelchair Association has been forced to postpone its nationwide fundraising activities and close its network of charity shops. Like many organisations and businesses it has regrettably had to lay off valued staff members temporarily, who have significantly contributed to building its services to where they are today.

The charity supports 4,000 people with physical disabilities every week in Ireland across a spectrum of needs and is now appealing to the public for support.

“Each year Irish Wheelchair Association needs to raise €2million over and above our HSE funding to keep our vital services running,” said Sinéad Burke. “We are aware that it is a difficult time for everyone and we’re asking people to make a donation to support our frontline workers, if they can afford to.”

To support Irish Wheelchair Association visit iwa.ie.

For queries about Irish Wheelchair Association’s services call 01 8186400 or email customercare@iwa.ie.

WCP Staff

WCP Staff Writer

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