St Christopher’s service is a voluntary organisation which was founded in 1964 by parents & friends to provide a service for people with disabilities in the county of Longford & surrounding counties. St Christopher’s aims to provide a high quality, community based service to individuals based on their identified individualised needs to enable them to reach their full potential. There are many different services & programmes provided by the organisation.

It was also noted through work with parents & other support networks that leisure time activities were very limited and were perceived as an area of great need, especially as people became older. It was observed that individuals demonstrate better behaviour, communication and social skills when outside the centre doing leisure activities. In the late 1990’s the organisation conducted a survey of the leisure activities available in Longford. As a result of these findings the leisure content of the day programmes in St Christopher’s was increased. This included evening activities, weekends and holidays away, which were offered to people attending the services.

This reinforce the original perceptions of the parents and staff i.e. people behaved better and demonstrated better communication, interest and enthusiasm in their day to day activities when involved in leisure activities. It also reinforced the awareness of the lack of supported leisure options for people with disabilities who wish to be involved in leisure in the community but may also need considerable support to do so. There was no state or private services, which provide a service of this kind in the Longford region.

A leisure survey and research on the effects of participation in leisure were carried out to provide concrete evidence of the effect of leisure and the incidence of leisure participation amongst this population and their peers. The conclusions of the study showed that people with intellectual disabilities participated in considerably less leisure than their non disabled peers and what leisure they did avail of was usually enjoyed with family members rather than friends. The study also showed the many and varied positive consequences of increased leisure for people.

As a result a pilot project called Leisure buddies was started among a selected number of staff & service users. The benefits & needs for a project of this type was significantly noted that in 2006 St Christopher’s applied for funding through An Pobal Enhancing Disabilities Programme to make the Leisure buddies project a full time programme in the services. The funding provided resources to establish the project & keep it running for 2 years. After this time no additional budgetary finding was received for the project, however St Christopher’s through its executive committee agreed to provide the support to keep the project running on a full time bases.
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