Social farming has wide support and supports more than people with disabilities. We have quite an extensive support for people in recovery from mental ill health. We have refugees, people coming out of the justice system and out of prisons, people with addictions, brain injuries etc. People with disabilities have accounted for almost 60% of the participants since we started placements on farms, however, so it is very significant and that is reflected in the European context.
There is no question, therefore, about the need and desire for people to partake in this choice of support across the community. It is a social community support rather than following the medical model. For that reason, it is quite innovative in that it links sectors that do not really naturally link such as agriculture and health and social care in that context. The innovation has been following policy delivery.
In that regard, we have linked with University College Dublin and other institutions, and with projects in the European context, to keep track of researching and reporting the evidence from what happens in Ireland. We deliver on and promote the vision and aims of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UNCRPD, particularly those in Article 19 on living independently and inclusion in the community, Articles 24 to 27 on education, health, habilitation and rehabilitation and work and employment and Article 30 on participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.
As I said, we are not providing employment on farms because there is a distinction between this and employment placements or job placements. It is a pre-employment support that progresses people toward their choices in life. Some want to move towards employment, whatever the nature of that may be. Others have different goals when they start out, and, after a number of placements, may move towards employment. It is, therefore, a progressive planned placement that helps people achieve goals. The goals can be very simple in many cases in terms of better physical activity, social interaction, establishing routines of using public transport and getting into a work routine of getting up in the morning and getting lunch. That is how we are delivering for people on the UNCRPD.
We are also delivering for people on key national policies with regard to the Government policy on disability, including the New Directions initiative, getting people into the community and innovating in support. Members will hear an example shortly from Mr. McManus in respect of the Make Work Pay for People with Disabilities report. We have also built additional supports in our local development company. This year, we applied to the social welfare scheme announced by Pobal and we have in place an individual placement support, IPS, worker based on the model of IPS that operates in the mental health service. We have a person working there to work with people who are actively seeking paid employment. We will hear from Mr. McManus later and he will give us an example of that.
Obviously, we have the national disability strategies and particularly the Towards Personalised Budgets for People with a Disability in Ireland report, which was launched in 2018. We have one particular example of a person on a farm in County Wexford who has personal budget support, and he and his family will give their experience at our conference. We are delivering, therefore, and want to deliver on national policy.
The activities associated with social farming and the model of implementation are very personalised. People choose the goals they want and the plan around each placement works on achieving those goals. The placements are generally time-limited even though we have people now who have been on them for 12 months or two years. The view is always to plan to achieve certain goals and to go forward as opposed to just placing people for the sake of it. It is, therefore, progressive.
We want people to feel like they are valued, independent, active citizens through their placements. We want to take away the labels because farming is farming. It is ordinary; it is part of every community and people can access it. Our view is to make this accessible for people. Because it is an innovation in the health and social care side, it is that bit more difficult to mainstream the accessibility of it to find the funding to cover the cost of placements. We are very grateful to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for the funding in that regard.
There are gaps in the service provision to allow people to innovate and make the choices they really need. Choice is so important. Covid-19 contributed to gaps in service provision, which I am personally aware of because I have a daughter with Down's syndrome who is just about to leave the secondary school system. I am very well aware of the issues with the hit-and-miss nature of service provision and accessibility to service. I was a director of Down Syndrome Ireland for many years.
What we are trying to do is to provide something innovative that is very valuable. We have research and our document on research on the disability side shows the benefits, outcomes and value. It shows how valuable it is for delivering a better life and connecting people in the community with the natural environment and things that really interest them in order that they live a much more fulfilled and better life. There is a discovery process in this. Before the placement, there is a review of the placements and people move on. We are looking to move people towards those ultimate goals they have, with employment being an important part. We are always speaking to the political system and statutory systems to look at increasing the accessibility and sustainability of social farming.
There is a very significant depth of knowledge now in Ireland from our activities with a wide range of services. It is a collaborative project. We work across many different Departments. We have young people coming out of the leaving certificate applied, LCA, programmes, pre-exit from schools, looking at options they may take in the future. We have Ukrainian refugees actually taking part in placements on farms at the minute so it is very responsive to people's needs, no matter what they are.
What we have is a very fragmented funding model for social farming placements. We have very significant funding for this year, thanks to the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, from her disability integration funding, which we received for seven counties. We had to apply numerous times - I think for 14 or 15 counties - and we received grants for seven. We would like to see a national multiannual fund that is some way embedded or mainstreamed in order that we can be certain of support for placements, which are very valuable. That is where I may leave it, as Mr. McManus will now speak.
In that regard, as a disability campaigner as well, I am very interested in seeing the reality of personalised and individualised funding. It has been very slow. We know that was legislated for in 2014 in Northern Ireland when we were working on a cross-Border basis. We see the benefits of that in terms of providing accessibility to social farming for people with disabilities. It is still in the very early stages. It was a key part of New Directions. It has not turned into a reality, although it has for some. There is a pilot process with approximately 120 or 130 people in the country. We would speak to the committee, as legislators and as people who can move policy into practice, to make sure that becomes a reality for people. It will give people real feeling that the UNCRPD is actually a reality for them in making choices. Mr. McManus will now give us his input.