Case Study

National Institute of
Intellectual Disability Studies

I started working in the intellectual disability sector in 1984, working as a frontline staff in both Ireland and the USA for six years before I went on to train as a nurse and social worker.

Whenever I had a new service user, I was frustrated with the difficulty of trying to find accessible information about their condition and the best strategies to enable them to live their best lives. Research was laborious — a book here, a research article there — but they were not necessarily written by frontline practitioners for frontline practitioners. I got used to reading and summarising the kind of information I needed in order to put the best support plans together for the individuals I was supporting.

Later in my career, when managing staff, they would ask me how to go about putting together support plans and I would refer them to this book or that book or that research article. They would frequently ask me: Is there nowhere to get information that is written with the individual’s needs and frontline workers’ roles in mind?

Then when I was supervising managers, they would ask different questions: What is my role in supporting service users and frontline workers, and where can I find information that advises me about the type of support I should be providing.

With this in mind, together with a colleague, we set up the National Institute of Intellectual Disability Studies. We assembled an ehub of online training using a range of experts in the field to write materials that are useful in meeting the needs of service users. These materials also provide guidance for managers working in the disability sector and for frontline workers, particularly social care workers needing to develop their continuing professional development given the upcoming CORU (Health and Social Care Professionals Council) regulations. For example, we have developed modules to support organisations to meet Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) regulatory thematic inspection to reduce and eliminate the use of restrictive practices. We also developed a series of modules targeted at the various levels of staff within an organisation.

Prior to this in 2017, we conducted a feasibility study in the disability sector, which was partially funded by the Kildare Enterprise Board. The results informed us that organisations were looking to embark on large-scale improvement initiatives, but faced many challenges such as:

  • lack of manpower;
  • retention and recruitment difficulties;
  • not having the specialism to develop all the training;
  • not having the staff required to meet the needs of the service users;
  • how to provide support to frontline staff and managers who are social care workers and need to register with CORU and develop their CPD given they are the biggest cohort of staff in the disability service;
  • lack of resources or finances to develop the strategic workforce tools they required.

From these findings we developed the following tools and capabilities for the disability sector. We took the Swiss cheese model, which is a model of defensive barriers, and reversed it to set out the details of what a successful organisation looks like.

The Competency Framework has been developed through extended frontline experience, and is aligned with the modern legal, regulatory and policy environment in Ireland today, in particular the HIQA Standards. The Framework implements a programme of continuous development, allowing staff to meet new policy guides, monitor and improve all parts of the workforce development cycle, and quickly identify and respond to gaps within an organisation.

Having undertaken further research, we merged our expertise with Velsoft who provided us with powerful digital tools such as an LMS and hundreds of well-researched and designed online training modules. Velsoft also gave us the tools to develop our own highly specialised online training specifically for the Irish disability services, set against our competency framework. This allows us to provide organisations with an unprecedented amount of capability to improve the services they offer and to navigate them towards a totally person-centred service, meeting HIQA regulations and fulfilling other legislative obligations. Our online training programmes assist organisations in becoming proactive, providing them with the means to get ahead, meet HIQA regulations, avoid reputational damage and become centres of excellence.

Velsoft has been with us every step of the way. We have been working with them since 2010, and they have facilitated our growth, along with supporting us in the design of our programmes and in how we use their platform. Every inspired idea we come up with, they have helped us to navigate. We are very grateful to have Velsoft as one of our partners.

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