An evaluation of family support programmes for people with a disability in Ireland
Research team
Prof Agnes Higgins, Fintan Sheerin, Louise Daly, Danika Sharek, Colin Griffiths, Jan de Vries and Pádraig McBennett, Trinity College Dublin

An evaluation of family support programmes for people with a disability in Ireland

This evaluation examined the impact of four Genio grant-aided initiatives which focussed on training and capacity building with families of people with disabilities, including people with very severe and complex disabilities. The overarching aim of the projects was to enable families of children with disabilities to envision a positive realistic future, and build better lives for themselves and their children within the context of their local communities. This research focussed on the impact of the initiatives on the family and the family member with a disability; the family member’s perspectives on the project content, processes, structures and sustainability of such initiatives. 


In 2010, Genio grant-aided four family-focused projects with a focus on building capacity within families to promote and support the inclusion of their family member with a disability. The four projects were: 1) Family Focus Project - Brothers of Charity Clare with Muiriosa Foundation and Cheshire Ireland; 2) Transitions Project - DESSA (Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency); 3) Family Leadership Project - LEAP (Leading Education Advocacy and Planning for full citizenship for people with intellectual disabilities and autism) 4) Pathways to Possibilities Project - Autism Initiative Group. Genio commissioned Prof. Agnes Higgins of Trinity College Dublin to conduct an evaluation of these four projects. 

Key findings

  • For the majority of participants the projects had a positive impact on the person attending, their family member and the family unit.
  • The projects enhanced knowledge and skills of participants and challenged and changed their thinking about disability.
  • The projects positively affected the participants ability to advocate for the rights of their family member and engage with services on a more equal footing.
  • For some participants, the projects resulted in greater involvement and social connections of their family with community.
  • Participants reported improved quality of life, self-esteem, and confidence for their family member as a result of their increased autonomy, independence, and involvement in decision making.
  • In addition, the report contains a very useful overview of the literature on family support models which will be of benefit to any group seeking to develop supports for families of people with disabilities. The report also makes a series of recommendations which will inform Genio’s future work in this area.
Key Points
  • The report found significantly better outcomes for those attending the new services.
  • Project costs were generally lower when compared to comparision services.
  • Mainstream community-based activities were seen as central to the success of projects in the eyes of participants. 

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