From Adult Service Users to Service Owners | Enable Ireland

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From Adult Service Users to Service Owners

man seated in front of colourful background

In February of this year, the Enable Ireland Board of Directors confirmed its agreement that adults that avail of our services will from now on be referred to as service owners rather than service users. The change in terminology was made at the request of the National Adult Service User Council and followed a national consultation process undertaken among all adult services regarding the name change proposal. The result of the consultation was that the majority of adults accessing Enable Ireland’s services were in favour of the change to service owner.

Adult service owners and members of the newly renamed Service Owner’s Council (SOC), led the change in terminology. Diarmuid Duggan, Chair of the SOC and Enable Ireland Board Member and Padhraic Dormer, member of SOC and former Enable Ireland Board member, were both involved in the process and explained why it was important to adult services owners and how it was achieved.

Padhraic takes us back to how it started, “It all started with the Advotech summer school in June 2019. This was a summer school that adults attended which looked at advocacy and technology. While we were there looking at advocacy issues like PA hours and accessibility and some of us felt that the term service user just wasn’t right. When we put together our Person Centred Plans, we always talk about it being our service. We felt passionately that it is our service, so why are we not known as service owners? So we took our proposal to the Council and discussed it with the other members there. We agreed that we would put it to all adults using Enable Ireland services around the country to let everyone have a say in it. The majority agreed that they wanted to be known as service owners. So the Council made the request to the Board of Enable Ireland.”

Diarmuid Duggan is the adult service owner representative on Enable Ireland’s Board of Directors, “I’ve been involved with Enable Ireland for over 40 years. I’ve been known as a pupil (when I was in the school) and then a trainee when I joined adult services. But you can’t still be a trainee after 40 years! I can see the benefit now in the name service owner. It is our service after all and we do own it. I think this kind of change is very good for an organisation too, like when we changed from Cerebral Palsy Ireland to Enable Ireland. It’s empowering.” 

Padhraic continues, “It was our decision to change the name and we were able to use the advocacy groups in Enable Ireland like the Council to make it happen. Enable Ireland listened to us and to what we wanted. It’s been really positive for us to see this change happen”.

Diarmuid talks about his role on the Board, “This has been one of the biggest, most effective change that I have been involved in on the Board. I’m proud of the decision the Board made and the part I played in it.”

“I was delighted to see the name change to service owner approved by the Board,” commented John O'Sullivan, CEO. “It demonstrates the importance of the advocacy structures that we have in Enable Ireland from the Service Owners Council, local advocacy groups like SPEAK and up to representation at Board level. They are critical to ensure that each service owner’s voice is represented at all levels of the organisation. Words do matter. They can help build a culture of empowerment and greater inclusion. The shift to ‘service owner’ reflects the ongoing active participation of adults in their disability services in Enable Ireland. I want to thank the SOC and all the adult service owners who brought about this important change.”

The Service Owners Council (SOC) is an independent committee within Enable Ireland with representatives from all areas where adult services are provided. It currently has nine service owner representatives from around the country.