23 Feb 2016

Training Programme for People with Disabilities Named Nationwide Winner in AONTAS STAR Awards

– Eight organisations receive awards for outstanding work in adult education –

A training programme that aims to help people on disability or illness welfare payments to participate in the labour market was named the nationwide winner of the STAR Awards (22.02.16).

The STAR Awards are organised by AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, as part of its annual Adult Learners’ Festival. They recognise outstanding work in adult education.

At the awards ceremony in Dublin today, the Disability Activation (DACT) Training Options Programme was named as the nationwide winner. Delivered by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the programme provides supportive accredited training aimed at enhancing the confidence and skills of people in receipt of an illness or disability payment. It is targeted at the Border, Midlands and Western region, and run through local centres in Drogheda, Dundalk, Athlone, Mullingar, Longford, Galway, Castlebar, Ballina and Letterkenny. It is jointly funded by the European Social Fund and the Department of Social Protection.

Commenting on the project’s success, Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, said: “The DACT Programme is a fantastic example of a project that facilitates inclusiveness through a learner-centred approach. In meeting the needs of their learners by offering mentoring, providing a warm, non-threatening learning environment in addition to high quality programmes, participants are supported to reach their full potential. The progression rate to further education and training is testament to this. As with all good accredited adult and community education programmes, the journey is as important as the award itself.”

Regional Winners

In addition to the DACT Training Options Programme, a number of organisations were named as regional STAR Awards winners, as follows:

Peter Baldwin, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Education and Skills, presented representatives of all winning groups with their STAR Awards at a ceremony in the Burlington Hotel, Dublin. Over 250 people attended the awards ceremony, representing 34 organisations shortlisted for awards.

Michael Power, an adult learner, delivered a keynote address at the ceremony. Speaking of his personal experience of adult learning, Mr. Power said: “Adult learning gave me the confidence to transform my life after redundancy, the support and encouragement that I received from my local adult education centre allowed me to progress onto third level. My experience of education was so affirming that I changed career direction to become a teacher, at first teaching adult literacy and recently teaching children with autism.”

AONTAS estimates that approximately 300,000 adults take part in some form of education each year, including second-chance education. The organisation’s Adult Learners’ Festival is running throughout this week, with hundreds of events and activities happening nationwide.