It’s the word that got me first. What does ‘hub’ conjure up to you? I keep thinking of a hive of insects, which is obviously wrong. Or the hub cap covering a car wheel, often dirty and broken. Or the centre of a bicycle wheel with spokes heading out in all directions. Actually I think that last one is probably what is meant by a hub, at least in terms of the Hubs that are being set up for disabled adults under New Directions, to provide a base for accessing services in the community. However the name does not give me a warm fuzzy feeling, or suggest somewhere welcoming. At least not to me.
But I’m always willing to be converted, so I happily accepted an invitation to visit a Hub in Drogheda, about a 40 minute drive north of Dublin. Obviously I brought my disabled daughter B with me, so I could see what she thought, and whether it would suit her.
This Hub is a revamped building in the grounds of a Rugby Club in Drogheda, it was set up as a partnership between parent group Autism Support Louth&Meath, the Irish Health Service (HSE ) and non-profit Praxis, and parents sit on the steering group. It provides a service for 15 adults, all bar one have autism. and most have moderate intellectual disabilities. The adults spend 75 per cent of their time in the community and go out in groups or on their own – everyone has a personalised programme of activities. There are also group activities like yoga and music and the adults can choose to take part or not. There’s even an allotment with chickens!
Specific life skills are taught, like how to use a pedestrian crossing safely. Specialists come in to the centre to meet individual needs, such as occupational therapy. There are a number of different rooms for different activities, such as this lovely relaxation room.
The Hub was wheelchair accessible but there were no changing place toilets for those who need a hoist for toileting or changing. Nor was there a medical team on site.
The atmosphere was quiet, friendly and purposeful, perhaps a bit too quiet for my daughter, who was a bit withdrawn during the visit. The adults at the centre all seemed content and occupied, which was great to see.
Perhaps there will be different kinds of hubs, maybe some will be more lively, and with a wider range of facilities, who knows? My daughter follows a very similar programme, and spends a lot of time in the community, but it’s not ‘her’ community, it’s a couple of miles away, and under New Directions, she’s supposed to be closer to home. Also her current service is on a campus – which means it has lots of specialist facilities that are not available in the community – but campuses “do not comply with the criteria.” This makes me sad.
I can see how hubs could offer a much better lifestyle for those with autism and mild to moderate disabilities, who can easily enjoy and take part in community activities.
But I’m not convinced yet that hubs could work better for adults with multiple disabilities and complex medical needs. My daughter seemed to agree, she was interested, but not excited.