National Advocacy Conference

The National Advocacy Conference is an annual event that draws hundreds of delegates from across National Learning Network and RehabCare services across Ireland.

National Advocacy Conference 2023

Rehab Group hosted its annual National Advocacy Conference on March 7th at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin. The theme this year centred on inclusion and included a live stream option for those in services to access the conference remotely. Thankfully, this was our first in-person conference since before the pandemic!

National Advocacy Conference 2023

MC for the morning’s event was Regional Advocacy Committee Chairperson for the South, Michael Meere. David Donnelly, Vice Chairperson of the Regional Advocacy Committee in the East, brought us through the agenda for the day to a gathered audience of 250 people. Senator Eileen Flynn opened the event focussing her remarks on the importance of participation in society. Senator Flynn then presented the outgoing members of the Regional Advocacy Committees with their certificates of participation alongside CEO Barry McGinn. 

Following his address, our CEO welcomed the newly elected members of the Regional Advocacy Committees into their new roles and spoke of how much he looked forward to working with them into the coming year. 

The Senior Leadership Team took questions from the people who use our services before we heard from the Regional Advocacy Committees and their achievements during their term in office. They touched on successful projects, such as the Hidden Disabilities Awareness campaign in the West/NorthWest, the creation of a communication booklet in the easy-read format in the East, and finally, the development of Travel and Accessibility Campaigning Guidelines by the South Regional Advocacy Committees. 

Over the lunch break, a workshop was held on sustainability by Paschal O’Connor, Rehab Group’s Sustainability Officer. A campaigning workshop was led by students from Limerick and people who use the services of RehabCare Galway focused on the successful campaigns on transport in their local area in recent times. The Advocacy Officers also led a “Having your Say” workshop. After lunch, Fintan Bray, Ard Chomhairle, Fianna Fail opened the afternoon session with a passionate talk on the importance of believing in yourself.  

The conference’s final speaker was Áine Flynn, Director of the Decision Support Service, who gave a presentation on the Assisted-Decision-Making Act, which comes into force in the coming weeks. The presentation from the Decision Support Service on the Assisted-Decision-Making is available below. If you need further information or support, please get in touch with the Advocacy Officer in your region. Please see the presentation here:

The afternoon MC Brian Darcy of Northwest Regional Advocacy Committee closed the conference. This conference marks the most extensive engagement ever undertaken by the Rehab Group Advocacy Team, with over 250 people present in person on the day and over 119 services around the country logged in to watch. 

All information, recordings, handouts and presentations can be available to anyone who wants more information. Please get in touch with the Advocacy Officer in your region or email:

We want to take this opportunity to say thanks again to the staff who supported the participation of people at this event. 

Please watch our Rehab Group Advocacy Conference 2023 below:

National Advocacy Conference 2021

The annual National Advocacy Conference went virtual this year, with a National Advocacy Week taking place on the mornings of October 19th, 20th and 21st 2021

While the Advocacy Conference usually takes place in person and is a very popular event, we felt that due to uncertainty around Covid-19 restrictions it was better to move things online. The theme for the week was self-advocacy. Holding a National Advocacy Week online resulted in unprecedented participation, with over 80 different centres from right across the country in attendance and many more of our service users and students logging in remotely – in total reaching an estimated national audience of approximately 800 people

Advocacy Week was opened each day by a member of one of our Regional Advocacy Committees. A different region represented each day, introducing the speakers and outlining what lay ahead.

Day 1

On Day 1, Minister Anne Rabbitte launched the event, speaking about self-advocacy for people with disabilities and the new Assisted Decision Making Act coming into law next year. The Minister discussed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and some of the important work her department is doing to implement the Convention fully, before finally giving some sound advice to those standing for election to the Regional Advocacy Committees.

The focus of the first day of Advocacy Week was Mental Health and we heard from two mental health advocates. The first was Jim Walsh of the Irish Advocacy Network, a mental health organisation led by people with personal experience of mental health difficulties and he gave a great presentation on his organisation and the supports available to people.

Rachel Hughes from Shine then talked us through mental health wellness, well-being and recovery supports. We then went live to a number of centres to get feedback and questions based on Rachel’s presentation.

Day 2

Day two of Advocacy Week opened with a look at a project based around getting more people from NLN and Rehab services involved in interviewing job applicants. The ‘Inclusive Interview Panel Project’ has been very successful and hopefully something that will develop further in the future.

We then learned a little more about a consultation process that the Regional Advocacy Committees were involved in – namely a review of the Government’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). With their feedback, we made a cartoon video, called a Doodlie, looking at the issue of access to transport for people with disabilities.

The Chairperson of the Rehab Board, Aidan Walsh then spoke to us about exactly what the Board does and some of their plans for the coming years.

For the main piece of the day, we had a fantastic presentation from Josephine McLoughlin on Assisted Decision Making. Centres around the country then had a discussion with Josephine, looking at different scenarios that people might experience in their day-to-day lives. It was great to have such an informative piece on a very important change in the law that will affect us all next year.

Day 3

On the last day of Advocacy Week, we started out by learning a little more about IPLANIT – an online planning tool for our service users and students. A short video showed how IPLANIT helps promote self-advocacy and gives people a say over their own plans and what they want to do.

Election results were announced and new advocacy committees for each region were formed. We thanked all our outgoing committee members and they were presented with a certificate of appreciation in their individual centres.

An open forum, where service users and students from around the country ask questions of the organisations Senior Leadership Team, took place towards the end of the conference. Our service users and students asked a wide range of questions, including questions about the new Strategic Plan, climate action, assisted-decision making training, Irish Sign Language, leadership, and getting back to normal following Covid-19.

The winners of an ISL competition were announced by CEO Barry McGinn, who then gave a closing address to wrap up Advocacy Week. Barry spoke about how the organisation managed through the Covid-19 pandemic and also about the new Strategic Plan for Rehab Group.

Rehab CEO Barry McGinn on screen during the conference
Rehab CEO Barry McGinn speaking during the National Advocacy Conference

To learn more about our National Advocacy Conference please see our National Advocacy Conference report below: