Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI) have launched a national fundraising campaign to support adults with Down syndrome experiencing isolation and limited job opportunities due to Covid-19.
DSI’s Ability Programme has been working to provide people with Down syndrome with access to meaningful employment opportunities through adult education and direct links with employers.
The group say that the pandemic has left many adults with Down syndrome more isolated, and has resulted in job losses and limited options to engage with further education and other life activities.
More than 95 percent of graduates employed following DSI’s Ability programme have been furloughed, with 2 being supported to work remotely since the pandemic. Additionally, 80 percent of adults with Down syndrome say they are unable to find courses that are interesting and accessible in their local communities.
In response to members’ concerns, DSI have developed “Ability Online,” a ten-week adult education course that can be delivered remotely and combines online tasks and group Zoom discussions.
Through its charity partnership with the MACE retail group, which has been renewed for the next two years, DSI can make the course available to older people with Down syndrome living in Ireland.
Up to now, the organisation has been curtailed from developing this programme fully because funding constraints only allowed registration of students younger than 29 years on the Ability online course. DSI and MACE aim to raise enough funds to provide the course to every adult over the age of 29 with Down syndrome in Ireland.
Daniel O’Connell MACE Sales Director said: “In the last 12 months, MACE retailers have seen first-hand just how important our contribution is to the communities we serve and above all, in helping those most vulnerable.
“We are extremely proud therefore, to have renewed our partnership with DSI and to support this initiative which will provide meaningful opportunities to adults with Down syndrome to engage, socialise and look for employment opportunities.”
Commenting on the launch of the campaign, Down syndrome Ireland CEO Barry Sheridan said: “We are delighted to have renewed our partnership with MACE, and in particular, to launch this year’s fundraising campaign as many of our members struggle with the impact of the pandemic.
“There are a broad range of benefits to having courses like Ability Online available. For example, adults with Down syndrome in Ireland have the highest incidence of early onset dementia. Engaging in education, working and getting to meet and socialise with other people daily are huge factors in fighting against early onset dementia.
“Without this extra support, people with Down syndrome will struggle to engage in meaningful employment and continue to miss out on the social interaction that was absent over the past few months, as well as earning a wage and contributing to society, well after their colleagues have returned to work.”