Lorraine Cooke recalls her experience of moving from a residential service back to her family home, before moving to a home of her own. She also tells us why the Independent Living Movement is so important to her.
My name is Lorraine Cooke.
This time 7 years ago I was in a dark place. I had overcome barriers in the past and was determined that this time around wouldn’t be any different. I was led to believe that because there was no funding for me to go to the next stage of a residential service that I would be left with no choice but to return to my family home in rural Ireland.
This was an option that, after being away from home for 12 years, I was not willing to accept without a fight. To this day, I am thankful to somebody in Directory Enquiries who connected me to the Disability Federation Of Ireland in the first week of July 2010, when I was still in my family home.
From that moment, the support that I have received has given me opportunities to live independently. Thanks to the support of a care assistant funded by the HSE, I can now do things that wouldn’t suit my lifestyle if I was to live in the countryside. It’s for this reason that I took part in the last protest that Martin Naughton organised in September 2015.
Unfortunately, many of the issues that we were campaigning for have yet to be resolved. For me personally, I remain concerned about the lack of equal access to an education that should be designed to give children who require extra supports that they need to achieve their best in the locality where they are from and that doesn’t discriminate against their gender, race, beliefs etc.
Another issue close to my heart is the ongoing waiting lists and access to treatments that should be made available without delay. The HSE should not be playing games with the lives of people like Vera Twomey, who as I write this blog is walking to Dublin to raise
awareness and get the vital treatment that she needs for her daughter Ava.
I don’t have a life threatening condition but know that waiting for a second opinion to visit an eye consultant who I hope to get an operation from is daunting when I think about it. Therefore I cannot imagine the pain that Vera is going through at the thoughts of losing
her daughter when a solution is available.
Last but not least, one of the main reasons why I campaigned was to add my voice to the housing emergency that Ireland has because the government refuses to open empty buildings. Along with housing our homeless, these properties could save the state by moving people out of residential care and supporting them with a care package in the community, if that is the choice that meets their needs.
I am fortunate that the HSE assessment that I had in March 2011 agreed that living independently in a community of my choice was the best option for me. Unfortunately, where I currently reside is quite small and therefore I rely on my personal assistant to carry out certain tasks like go down to the basement to do washing. Things like this, as well as contacting councillors to state my case for affordable accommodation and looking for hospital appointments is partly why I have been a quiet activist lately.
Nonetheless, I will continue to challenge the barriers in order to gain equality, which was Martin Naughton’s biggest dream.