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Kare’s Oireachtas internship programme recognised with disability equality award

Kare’s innovative Project OWL (Oireachtas Work Learning programme) had recent success at the 2024 National Diversity & Inclusion Awards, with the Houses of the Oireachtas receiving the ‘Advancing Disability Equality Award’ for organisations that lead the way in advancing disability equality in the workplace.

Project OWL, run by the Houses of Oireachtas Service in collaboration with Kare and WALK as sponsor organisations, was launched as a pilot programme in 2018 by the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD. It enables young people with intellectual disability to gain meaningful work experience at the Houses of the Oireachtas – the first parliament in the world to host a programme of this kind.

The goal of Project OWL is to provide trainees with the skills, knowledge and ability to gain meaningful paid employment. It offers a unique opportunity to gain practical work experience and for trainees to be accredited for their learning over an 11-month period. Each participant completes an immersive work experience incorporating QQI training in conjunction with the City of Dublin Education and Training Board.

Kare was represented at the awards ceremony by Project OWL graduate, Kirby Hogan.

In commenting on why the OWL programme was chosen to receive the award, the judging panel highlighted the programme's "highly comprehensive work and learn programme in partnership with WALK and Kare – providing sustainable, inclusive and developmental pathways to real employment for people with intellectual disabilities."

The judging panel further commented that: "The programme has been developed in such a way to scale the initiative across the broader civil service and was truly impressive in its cross-department engagement and execution" and should be "particularly complimented for their ability to adapt and sustain the programme during the Covid-19 pandemic and the follow-on supports provided to graduates of the programme".

The National Diversity and Inclusion awards celebrate and champion individuals and organisations that go above and beyond in their commitment to excellence in diversity and inclusion. The gala awards event is organised by the Irish Centre for Diversity and is the only event dedicated to celebrating and recognising advances in diversity and inclusion in Ireland. The 2024 Advancing Disability Equality Award was sponsored by Aon.

Pictured left to right: Roisin Deery and Breda Burke (Houses of the Oireachtas), Triona Geraghty (AON), Kirby Hogan and Thomas Gartlan (Project OWL graduates). Image courtesy of the Irish Centre for Diversity.


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