Home Sharing in Intellectual Disability Services in Ireland

Home Sharing in Intellectual Disability Services in Ireland

A commitment was made in the HSE National Service Plan (2016) to develop Home Sharing as an added alternative to the existing model of respite and residential service provision on offer to adults and children with intellectual disability in Ireland. 

In this regard, a National Expert Group on Home Sharing was established by the HSE Social Care Division to carry out a review of Home Sharing in line with the HSE’s ‘Respite/Residential Care with Host Families in Community Settings’ (2012) and the HSE’s ‘Host Family Support Model of Service Provision – Governance/Guidance Document to Support Implementation’ (2012) and prepare a report for the future provision of Home Sharing in Ireland as a person centred and community inclusive model of support for people with intellectual disability.

The National Expert Group included clinicians, and other healthcare professionals, representatives from the HSE, TUSLA, Federation of Voluntary Bodies, CEOs from the non-statutory sector service providers and members from the National Home-sharing and Short-breaks Network (NHSN).  The report of the National Expert Group provides for the further development of Home Sharing and for the safe governance and management of the service.    

The report is divided into three sections. 

Section one (1) examines ‘Home Sharing as a model of Service Provision’ and makes a number of recommendations for the service as it is (a) currently managed and governed and, (b) for it to continue as a model of service on offer to people with intellectual disability and their families. 

Section two (2) entitled ‘HSE National Guidelines for Home Sharing’ provides a clear set of guidelines that service providers must follow and implement when offering Home Sharing to adults and children with intellectual disability and their families. 

Section three (3) entitled ‘Guidance Document to Support Implementation’ provides a comprehensive pack to support and guide service providers in Home Sharing as a model of service.  It also includes a training pack that service providers must adhere to and apply to the existing Home Sharing service and also with the implementation and further development in Home Sharing.

It is widely held internationally, and indeed from the experience of intellectual disability service providers in Ireland, that there are many advantages to Home Sharing as a model of service provision.  It aims to have opportunities for self-expression in all aspects of the person’s life.  Home Sharing strives to empower people with intellectual disability to have dignifying relationships and to be included meaningfully in the life of their communities.  The International Short Breaks Association (ISBA), which is a world-wide community promoting the delivery of short breaks in which Ireland is represented, promotes Home Sharing as an internationally recognised model of support. It further endorses short breaks as an essential support system aimed at families caring for people with intellectual disability (ISBA Conference, Edinburgh, 2016). 

The report has identified both strategic and operational challenges for Home Sharing in Ireland while at the same time has provided the blueprint for resolving these issues and for further developing Home Sharing as a model of full time and respite support for people with intellectual disability based on their needs.