Fiona O’Loughlin, TD, opened the event discussing her own personal and family experience of the barriers to employing people with disabilities. The 1st of April was the launch of the first Reverse Jobs Fair held in Ireland for people with intellectual disabilities. It also marks the 6th year of successful partnership between Kare and Naas General Hospital, in creating educational and training programmes with real work experience opportunities throughout many departments in the hospital.

Developed originally in Cincinnati Children’s Medical Centre, Ohio, Massachusetts, Project SEARCH is now being rolled out across 500 businesses and organisations globally, including in the UK, Australia, Canada and the U.S. Naas General Hospital is the first such organisation in Ireland to participate in this programme.

Peter Furlong, Operations Manager Kare, spoke about the “Kare as an organisation promotes the concept that people with intellectual disabilities should be seen as the same as everyone else and have the same opportunities as everyone else. The goal for everyone in life is a meaningful job, and this holds true for people with intellectual disabilities also.” Peter acknowledged the support and guidance given to the Project, from the members of the Kildare Chamber as well as the staff of the Kildare Chamber.

Alice Kinsella, General Manager of Naas General Hospital, spoke about “the effect and work of the interns can be seen throughout the hospital. Our current interns have been a huge support in the hospital, and they have been working with our staff across a number of departments such as physiotherapy, clinical nursing, occupational therapy, catering, clerical and support services”.

Kieran Conway, HR manager at Procter and Gamble, Newbridge, spoke about his experiences as a current employer of 2 former interns. He discussed the barriers to employment and how there were no issues that wouldn’t happen with any other staff member, the big difference was the support from the onsite job coach and Kare.