Personal assistance services in Ireland: A capability approach to understanding the lived experience of disabled people

November 9, 2022

Disabilities, 2022, 2(4), 694-714.

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Personal assistance (PA) has long been a key support for Irish people with physical and sensory disabilities, but evidence shows that Ireland lacks national standards for allocation, provision and data collection. Addressing a particular gap in understanding the experiences of disabled people, this paper draws on a large-scale mixed-method study with PA service users which was conducted in summer 2021. Overall, the evidence shows satisfaction among many service users, but suggests that systemic shortfalls have a clearly detrimental effect on the functionings and capabilities valued by the participants in relation to their ability to participate in social and economic activities that many people take for granted. The findings of this study provide valuable insights into what good personal assistance means for disabled people’s everyday lives and what Irish PA service users want to see change in the system. The findings are grounded in the Irish context, but they are useful to an international audience in clearly showing the value of PA and the importance of meaningfully including disabled people in its design and regulation.