From Small Beginnings

Photograph of Our Founding Members: Johnny Mee, Michael Joe Egan & Tom Fallon

The following radio programme describes the founding of Western Care in January 1966. You will hear how all the towns and town lands throughout County Mayo immediately got behind this unique undertaking, and typical of this great endeavour was the town of Claremorris, which is just one example among many, of the wonderful support and good will generated at that time. This support and goodwill has increased over the years, ensuring that Western Care is now ingrained in every community throughout the County.

This program is funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television Licence Fee. This Documentary is produced by Teresa Ward and Allan Tiernan.  Music kindly contributed by Grainne Hamley.

You can listen to the radio programme by clicking here.


Please select a category for more information.


Person Centred Approaches and the Natural Life Cycle

As people grow and develop the way their services are delivered also change.

For children receiving services, the priorities of the family is the focus of service delivery. As the child becomes older, he/she will begin to have a greater say in the priorities that are been addressed by services, eventually as the person reaches adulthood, supports will be organised around what is important to him/her. At each stage in the life cycle the changing role of the family as the person’s main advocate and supporter is acknowledged. The person remains connected to their family. The natural supports that families provide are nurtured and sustained over time.

The terms Family Centred and Person Centred are based on precisely the same values and principles. They are in fact the same approach applied to different stages of the life cycle. The different terms simply reflect the different ways of organising services and supports for children and adults.

Family Centred Practice

Family centred practice is an approach that focuses on the whole family and not just the child requiring support. It recognises that the well being and development of the child is dependent on the well being of each of the family members and the family as a whole.

Family centred practice ensures that supports provided are drawn from family priorities. It requires that there is family involvement in the identification and measurement of achievements. It recognizes that each family has its own role, values, structures, beliefs and coping styles. Respect for and acceptance of this diversity is a cornerstone of family centred practice. It necessitates that support is provided in a way that focuses on each family’s unique strengths.

The intended benefit of supports is improvement in quality of life as defined by the family.

Person Centred Practice

Person centred practice is a process whereby the service organisation places the adult person with a disability first. The central characteristic is the way services are organised around what is important to the person from his/her perspective.

Organisations that work in a person centred way are outward looking and act as bridges to the community for the people they support. 

A person centred service promotes the concept of social inclusion by supporting people to move from situations of dependency to full participation in community life.

The intended benefit of supports is the improvement in the person’s quality of life as defined by them.

Best Value
The value of person centredness guides the way we implement our Mission and deliver our support services in Western Care Association.
An essential perspective of person centredness is that the Association utilizes all of its available resources in the most efficient and effective way to support the best life outcomes for the people who use our services.
This is what we mean by Best Value   and embedded in our Strategic Plan is the requirement to ensure that this is the way we do things and that we have a means of checking that what we do meets this fundamental value.
This is a challenge for all of us that requires creative and innovative thinking, accountability and good management in the use of all our resources and will also involve, in some instances, change in practices and the way we do things.

Children and Family Services consist of two divisions: Early Childhood 0-6, and School Age 6-18 years. Both divisions work to empower and support children with learning disabilities and their families who are living in County Mayo. In partnership with families, the service seeks to provide children with appropriate opportunities to learn, develop their potential and live as equal citizens, sharing the rights and responsibilities of their peers. We work to achieve this through the provision of quality services; guided by an internationally recognised quality measurement system based on Personal Outcome Measures delivered in an individualised, innovative and flexible manner, based on the unique needs of each family and child. Children and Family Services are based on the following values:
  • Understanding and respecting your personal priorities.
  • Empowering you to make choices about supports that will respect your daily routine and need
    for privacy.
  • Working together to maintain your natural connections, to family and community.
  • Assisting you to achieve success for your child, based on your priorities, one step at time.
  • Enable you to identify possible safety concerns unique to your child.
  • Offer information that you might need to enable you to make the best possible choices, by helping you to be well informed about your rights.
  • Work with families to enable your child to have the best possible health.
These objectives are achieved through the following support services.
Respite care offers families the opportunity to have a rest from the daily challenges of caring by having the child stay away from home for a short period. During this time away, the child has an extended opportunity to interact socially with peers, develop independence and participate in local community facilities. Respite options are discussed through the family social worker and children are introduced gradually to help you and your child adapt to this new experience. Respite homes are typical homes in local estates or neighbourhoods that enable children to be integrated and interact with other members of the community.

Western Care Association also offers a shared care option to a number of children who may require more frequent periods away from home. This is in keeping with our recognition of the importance of maintaining partnerships with parents.
Each summer, Western Care Association offers summer scheme placements for up to 100 children. Over half of these children avail of local schemes in their own community and are supported by Western Care family support workers or other staff who work to support the children to enjoy opportunities and activities alongside their non-disabled peers.
In addition to these integrated schemes, a number of smaller schemes are offered at various venues throughout the County, specifically for children who may need smaller groups and specialised supports. These schemes offer the same range of activities which are typical to any summer scheme which include opportunities to be involved in arts, crafts, water sports, sports, trips to local attractions and opportunities to participate in team games. These activities are designed to enable children to have meaningful, positive experiences to learn through play, whilst facilitating the family to enjoy a rest as well.
Families with children with complex needs aged 0-6  receive services through Mayo Early Intervention Services.  This is a collaborative service model supported by Western Care Association, Enable Ireland and the HSE Primary, Community and Continuing Care (PCCC).  In order to make a referral to this service you should contact the Mayo Early Intervention Services on 094 9060234.

Contact & Address Details

Mayo Early Intervention Co-ordinator
Co. Mayo
Telephone:         094 9060234
Primary support to school age children is offered through their involvement in:
  • Multi-disciplinary Supports
  • After school programmes
  • Summer schemes
  • Respite
For further information contact:
                                                       Regional Services Manager for Children
                                                       Western Care Association
                                                       John Moore Road
                                                       County Mayo
                                                       Telephone:  094 9025133

The Childhood Autism Service exists to empower and support children and young people with autism, from 6 to 18 years of age and their families, in County Mayo. This service supports families and children to access appropriate opportunities to learn and develop their potential and to live as equal citizens.

We are working to achieve this through the provision of quality services, informed by internationally recognised standards of best practice, delivered in an individualised, innovative and flexible manner to provide comprehensive support to children and their families. We are committed to providing professional and clinical services that facilitate and enable each family and child to work towards and achieve their unique personal outcomes.

The Service is based on the following core values and beliefs:

  • The team strives to work in partnership with children and their families. We respect that the parents are the experts regarding their child and that they may require support to enable them to make sense of and use this expertise. We will endeavour to assist parents to access balanced information to make informed decisions.
  • We recognise the role of other services in supporting these children, both within the Association and from other agencies, statutory and non-statutory, in particular the Department of Education and HSE West. We aim to work in partnership with them to offer quality service provision to the children and their families.
  • We are committed to enabling children and young people to become valued members of their community, and recognise the importance of working towards inclusion and inclusive opportunities.
  • The Service works to utilise and enable communities to accommodate and support the differences in the young people we support.  We endeavour to do this by facilitating change within community-based organisations and general attitudes within local communities.
  • The Service recognises the need for accountability, in particular for the quality of the services offered and the effectiveness of the delivery. We believe that it is therefore essential to monitor and evaluate the achievements and skills of children and young people using a range of assessment procedures, using approaches that focus on achievements, abilities, strengths and potential of the children and young people.
  • The Service is committed to an evidence-based approach to the understanding of autism and of interventions and is committed to developing in line with emerging research findings. The Service will seek to contribute to this knowledge base through research and dissemination of our work and experiences.
  • Team members bring a unique contribution through their individual experiences and knowledge. The Service is committed to the continuing professional development of it's members.
  • The team works with respect and empathy for children, young people and their families, being open and honest in relationships. Respecting and maintaining confidentiality is an integral aspect of the Service.

What can you Expect?

This service provides support to the child and family from the point of school entry (or diagnosis, if this is later) to school leaving.

For this group of children, the Department of Education has the primary responsibility for intervention services, however, the children and family may continue to require access to additional specialist, autism specific services. In addition HSE is responsible for provision of Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Physiotherapy for school age children.

We provide home and/or community based services, as these are the principle and natural environments for the child and family outside of school. These supports can include Social Work, Psychology, Behaviour Support and /or Autism Resource Worker.

The support for school age children and their families aims to provide age-appropriate opportunities to enhance the child's personal, social and leisure opportunities as part of an inclusive community.  This is seen as an important contribution to the child/youth to develop as an independent and competent adult.

We do this by:

  • Determine the families priorities and provide support to meet these priorities.
  • Developing each child's skills, using detailed, individually planned learning.
  • Supporting the family, including siblings, to develop mutual understanding and promote the changes necessary to accommodate the child.
  • Developing the child's experience of the community, recognising the importance of age-appropriate activities and the skills that support community presence.
  • Providing specialist support and advice to the Department of Education and individual schools to enable them to develop appropriate services for the child.
  • Supporting the child and family through the school leaving  process.
  • Encouraging and supporting continuity of experience between schools, home and elsewhere.

The School Age Service ends when the young person leaves school or turns 18, whichever is later.

Contact & Address Details

Western Care Association

John Moore Road


Co. Mayo

Telephone:      094 9025133



Western Care Association provides a range of services to adults in the Mayo area. We support people with their chosen living options, respite services, day options and helping to build social networks in people’s own communities.

We are committed to supporting people to gain meaningful employment and to ensure that education and training needs are met.


The Association provides supports to people who are living in Group Homes. A number of people share a house whereby staff offer support to help them lead fulfilling lives.

Another model used is a situation where people who are more independent and require less staff support live in the local community. Staff provide support where it is most needed.

Some people are supported to live independently in the community. Supports are in place to ensure they have a good social life, have the opportunity to have hobbies and have the chance to build friendships.

The purpose of all these services is to support the individual to live as independently as possible, with the necessary level of support from the Association and lead a good quality of life.



Western Care Association offers respite services throughout the county. This service is designed to give service users and families a break. Such services allow an individual to use a group home for a short period of time. This is an opportunity to support the person to develop their social activities, to learn some new skills in a different location and to experience the opportunity to live away from the family home.


There are day opportunities available to people with varying levels of support offered. The focus is on community participation with most activities/opportunities that we support

  • Training opportunities across a range of skills for individuals. This training can be offered both within WCA buildings and using community facilities.
  • Advocacy Supports and Personal Development
  • Opportunities to build social networks and building real friendships
  • The opportunity to experience a range of options in the world of work
  • Employment opportunities
  • Leisure and recreation opportunities

Western Care Association has developed a number of innovative projects to support adults with a learning disability in the world of work. Such initiatives include the development of enterprises which offer employment to people. We support people to work by offering on the job training. This support incorporates training, coaching, monitoring and social support. The level of support is determined by the needs of the person. Many of these initiatives are developed in partnership with local employers.


Offers ongoing support to people who do not avail of our services and who may need a point of contact or intermittent support.


The participation of members of the local community in the activities of each service is welcomed and promoted.

Families are involved at many levels in services through:

  • Direct contact with services that visit their homes.
  • Regular contact with day and residential services,
  • Formal contact through meetings and discussions about how services can best support them.
  • Informal contact through staff they know very well to discuss their concerns and issues as they arise.

The organisation values and relies on family input in forging a future for people with disabilities in Mayo.


The Behaviour Support Specialists work collaboratively with the individual, family and others who support the person to develop a range of supports to address the meaning of behavioural difficulties. This collaborative process involves meeting with the individual and those who support him/her, assessing the nature of difficulties, and then developing a comprehensive range of support strategies. These strategies will typically include changes to the environment to meet the individual’s needs, teaching the individual replacement skills as alternatives to behavioural difficulties, implementing strategies to develop appropriate behaviours, and developing strategies to respond in a safe and respectful way to difficult situations when they occur. We also provide guidance in relation to developing more supportive environments for the individual to promote independence, skill development, and community involvement.


Contact & Address Details


Regional Service Manager for the North Area

Ridgepool Training Centre


Co. Mayo

Telephone:       096 21016


Regional Service Manager for the East Area

Western Care Association

John Moore Road


Co. Mayo

Telephone:         094 9025133


Regional Service Manager for the West Area

Western are Association

John Moore Road


Co. Mayo

Telephone:          094 9025133


Regional Service Manager for the Central Area

Western are Association

John Moore Road


Co. Mayo

Telephone:          094 9025133


Regional Service Manager for Children

Western are Association

John Moore Road


Co. Mayo

Telephone:          094 9025133



Social Work is a confidential family-focused and person-centered service, available to children and adults with a learning disability and their families. The Social Work Department has its professional social workers based throughout Co. Mayo to offer a localised and easily accessible service. The social worker supports children, adults and families, concentrating on the challenges that arise for a person with a learning disability and /or autism and their families.

The needs of individuals and families are assessed in a supportive professional approach, addressing the concerns of the individuals with learning disabilities and their families at any given time. The service is delivered through the provision of a home-based approach or within Western Care Association offices.

The focus of the Social Work Department is to support and enable people to address difficulties as they arise.  This can be facilitated through the use of 1:1 counselling, family counselling, group counselling, group supports, networking, and other appropriate interventions as required.

The role of the Social Worker is to respond to the emerging needs of the individual and their family (where appropriate) in a planned co-ordinated approach, focusing on the particular areas of self esteem, self confidence, independence, individual rights and entitlements.

The Social Work Department operates as part of a community-based multi-disciplinary team put in place to support and respond to the needs of individuals with a learning disability and their families.
The Social Work Department also provide the following services;
Through discussions with the individual and their family, particular supports maybe required.  The Social Worker may be positioned to put in place supports to address these requirements for a defined period of time.

What is Home Sharing About?

Home Sharers provide a service in their community, to our service users, having been recruited, screened and trained to undertake the role of providing a break in their own home for a child/adult who has a learning disability for usually short periods of time. Homesharing provides opportunities for the child or adult to develop new relationships, participate more in their communities, and experience an increased sense of inclusion in their community and environment.

Who can apply?

Anyone over the age of 18 years, who is interested in becoming a Homesharer.

Are any qualifications needed?

No, academic qualifications are not a necessary part of any application.  Common sense, warmth, understanding, patience and flexibility are the qualifications necessary.  A training programme will be provided to applicants once the initial application process is completed.  Applicants are also asked to take part in an assessment and sign consent forms to allow us to process Garda Clearance, a HSE check, and two references, plus a reference from your G.P.

How long of a commitment am I expected to give?

Being a Homesharer is a very individual thing.  Home sharing schemes fit in with most individuals own lifestyle and commitments.  Homesharers themselves determine the level of availability they can provide.

For example, one Homesharer may be in a position to offer a child or adult three weekend breaks a year, another might be available for occasional day or overnight stays, weekends monthly or indeed some Homesharers prefer a more regular and long term commitment, like every weekend, or Monday to Friday.  Some like to offer a week or two weeks holiday type break in summer.

If at anytime Homesharers feel they are no longer in a position to provide a service, they can at any stage talk to a Social Worker about their changing circumstances and can agree a planned ending to their placement.  They will not be contacted about further placements unless they wish to remain on our panel for future reference.

Homesharers do take breaks from offering placements and may decide to return to being available again at some later stage.

Do I know who is coming to stay?

Prior to placement, Homesharers are provided with a descriptive picture of the child or adult, they are considering having in their home, outlining their abilities and needs.  In all cases, the children or adults, are “matched” to a Homesharer they are going to stay with, bearing in mind your availability and level of commitment you are offering and their abilities.  This is to ensure, in so far as possible, the success of the placement.

Introductions are made gradually between the Homesharer and the child/adult, through the Social Worker involved.   In preparation for placement a number of other visits will occur before the child or adult first stay on their own.

What support do I get?

Homesharers are provided with contact telephone numbers and details of back up supports which they can contact.  They also have ongoing contact with their Social Worker.  The child/adult’s parents also provide the Homesharer with relevant information and contact numbers.

Why is there a need for Home Sharing?

Irish Society is changing, family units are becoming smaller.  Increasing social mobility, can lead to people becoming isolated in their communities. Close, family networks, which used to be a greater source of support, may no longer be the norm for a lot of people.

Service users have demonstrated to us that Homesharing is an option that they would like to consider and quite often prefer to avail of, as a first preference in service supports run by Western Care at the time.

Constant caring can be demanding and at times may become overwhelming.   The provision of Home Sharing has been found to reduce stress, strain and burnout in families, and so providing a valuable means of enhancing families’ coping resources.  As some families don’t have the option of help from family, neighbours or friends, it remains with the service providers to make available alternative forms of support.

Why Home Sharing?

Homesharers, create further opportunities for participation and inclusion for our service users in their communities.  The concept of “family/partner/individuals” based support not only provides support in the community but also support by the community.  It upholds the principle of social inclusion, which is the right of every individual.  It promotes choice for the individual service users as to who (s)he might like to live with and what social and leisure activities (s)he may want to get involved in.

Homesharing takes account of service users, right to be treated with dignity and respect, their right to presence in ordinary places, their need for opportunity to develop a wide range of relationships. It supports their right to make choices about daily life and activities and follow their personal goals in life. Finally it recognises the need we all have, to have opportunities to develop new skills and abilities which will enable us to become more involved and contribute to our community.


The Community Facilitation Service is an integral part of the Social Work Department within Western Care Association.  The service is based in Castlebar town and immediate area, and in recent times has developed supports for individuals in Westport town.  The service was initiated in 2001 when the Social Work Department recognised that there were a large number of people with intellectual disabilities who were living and working and striving for independence in the Castlebar town area.  Many of these individuals had found themselves in vulnerable situations where they required a particular discreet support and at that time had nowhere to turn.  In 2001, the Community Facilitation service was set up to support 14 individuals; this has now developed into a more comprehensive service while maintaining its discretion, supporting up to 60 individuals.

Community Facilitation offers;

  • A confidential person centered service.
  • A positive, original, innovative and individualised service which strives to meet the needs of each person.
  • Discreet supports to adults with intellectual disabilities living independently in the community and also support to individuals who are moving towards independent living.
  • Supports to individuals who work in the community, together with supporting individuals who are seeking employment.
  • Individuals an opportunity to address key areas of their lives, e.g., loneliness, isolation, poverty, relationships, sexuality, personal safety, rights, social inclusion, housing and health.
  • An inclusive and fresh approach to opportunities that are an essential aspect of the service mission, to deliver a holistic and meaningful intervention.
Key Areas of Support

Health and Wellbeing

  • Encourage and support individuals to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle by providing information and evidence-based research to enable people to make informed decisions, based on their individual needs.
  • Support and facilitate individuals to attend medical, dental and other personal appointments as needed to support a fulfilling life.
  • Support and guidance where necessary in the process of applying for Medical Cards/GP Visitors cards and other entitlements.
  • Support, liaise and work in partnership with the Adult Mental Health Team to address health concerns that may arise for individuals given their chosen lifestyles.
  • Explore with individuals how best to facilitate their needs in order for them to attain a healthy lifestyle from a holistic approach, e.g., healthy diet, good mental health, sexual health and healthy relationships and general well-being.
Housing and Finance
  • Work closely with Mayo County Council and private Landlords in obtaining secure, affordable quality accommodation for individuals, their partners and/or children.
  • Support and facilitate individuals to apply and attend meetings for the necessary social housing benefits e.g., House Assistance Payment (HAP), Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), Rental Allowance and Council Housing.
  • Support and Apply for entitlements for each individual, e.g. Household Benefits Package, Fuel Allowance, Living Alone Allowance etc.
  • Facilitate individuals to maintain independent living by addressing areas of concern and putting supports in place to assist with same, e.g. Personal Assistant, Volunteers and/or Home Help hours.
  • Support and facilitate individuals to live within their means e.g. budget to pay bills, food expenses etc., and contact Money Advice Budgeting Service (MABS) as needed.
  • Support and encourage individuals to strive toward and attain the highest level within their capacity from an educational and/or employment perspective.
  • Liaise with and facilitate individuals to attend meetings and educational institutions and support them to decide on programmes that best suit their needs and ability.
  • Research and provide the necessary information to individuals around community run courses/activities that may be of interest to them e.g. Le Cheile, Family Centre, Recovery College etc.
  • Liaise with Employability West to register and seek advice around employment needs and support for individuals.
  • Support individuals in putting together Curriculum Vitae.
  • Facilitate individuals to attain voluntary employment that may enable them to gain experience to move towards permanent employment.
Safety (Safeguarding and Self-Guarding)
  • Encourage and support individuals to keep safe, using a holistic approach, e.g. safety in the home, road safety, personal safety, sexual safety etc.
  • Arrange and facilitate informational talks and/or attend same at external agencies around keeping safe.
  • Liaise with the local Gardaí to raise awareness around vulnerable adults in the community and how best to address safeguarding.
The Community Facilitation Service provides a safe place for individuals to share their worries, concerns and future plans.  Its focus is also on helping individuals celebrate and internalise good things that are happening in their lives.  To address issues such as loneliness and lack of interpersonal contact, the Community Facilitation service operates a Drop-In system on a fortnightly basis as a support and an opportunity to facilitate attending events and out of town initiatives, widening and supporting people's general interests.


The Social Work Department operates a Duty Social Work system between 9.30 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday at Western Care Association offices, Castlebar (094) 9025133.


The Psychology Department in Western Care Association endeavours to provide a range of high quality psychological assessment and intervention services to children and adults with learning disabilities. The Department uses research and innovative approaches based on sound psychological principles. Services are provided in partnership with families, advocates, fellow staff members and a range of community groups and other agencies. Psychologists work as members of multi-disciplinary teams and these teams work across the age span from early intervention through to adult services.

Inputs are provided directly to service users; on some occasions indirectly through parents, teachers and other staff members. Direct working will usually involve psychological assessment for various issues and counselling/therapy interventions.

Supports are also provided through group work with parents, service users or staff as needed or requested.
Through discussions with the individual and their family, particular supports maybe required.  The Social Worker may be positioned to put in place supports to address these requirements for a defined period of time.


Speech and Language Therapy is involved with the assessment, diagnosis and remediation of communication difficulties and disorders.
The aim of the Speech and Language Therapist is to support and develop the child's communication skills. Research indicates that these skills are better developed in their natural setting with those that the child has regular contact with, namely families, teachers, friends and community and to this end therapy supports not only the child but the people who make up the child's world.


Physiotherapy is a way of enabling a child to develop his or her physical independence or to help an older child or adult regain independence following illness or injury. Physiotherapists have specialised knowledge and experience in the field of physical development and the acquisition of physical skills.

Western Care Association employs a chartered Physiotherapist who treat numerous conditions. She works in partnership with families and with other professionals to develop suitable treatment programmes for those in her care.


Occupational Therapy is the use of purposeful occupation to promote and restore health and wellbeing.

Purposeful occupations include the activities, tasks and roles that are meaningful to the person, and the Occupational Therapist uses these to enable the individual to attain their maximum level of function and independence in all aspects of daily living.

Occupational Therapy incorporates the following:

  • the use of occupations as a therapeutic approach
  • education and training approaches
  • specific treatment approaches
  • environmental modification
  • adaptation and the use of adaptive equipment.