Following the polio epidemic in Cork in the 1950’s many people were left with a disability but without rehabilitative services locally in the Cork city or county. A community response, spearheaded by the late Cllr. John Bermingham resulted in The Cork Poliomyelitis Association being founded which provided physiotherapy services to people who had contracted polio. Demand for these services was great and the Association quickly developed from an organisation operating from a single room to one which had a specially adapted and equipped clinic which became known as ‘The Polio Clinic’.
The Cork Poliomyelitis Association then worked to ensure that the children who had contracted polio were integrated back into the mainstream education system. Gradually the Association's responsibilities to these children diminished as they responded to physiotherapy and were attending the ordinary schools.
The remit of the organisation broadened and The Cork Poliomyelitis Association was faced with providing services for children with intellectual disabilities who up until then, either remained at home or were placed in inappropriate institutions. Scoil Bernadette, a special school for children with intellectual disability opened in 1958 followed soon after by the opening of ‘Queen of Angels’ (now known as Scoil Eanna) which was a residential school.
As the emphasis of the organisation shifted to providing services to a more diverse range of people The Cork Poliomyelitis Association was renamed on 30th May 1958 to Cork Polio and General After-care Association. The needs of the children changed as they got older and further services were developed. Over time, the profile of those being provided with services changed from children with a mild degree of intellectual disability to include all age ranges and all degrees of intellectual disability. This required the range of services being provided to be increased in number and scope to include pre-school and education, vocational training & placement, varying levels of occupation and employment, leisure facilities and retirement options with a range of residential facilities throughout Cork city and county.
As time passed the title Cork Polio and General After-Care Association became misleading and on 5th December 1988, the title was changed to Cope Foundation.
In 2005 Cope Foundation expanded it’s range of clients with opening of the North Lee ASD Service. North Lee ASD began with a caseload of 50 children for intervention services. This caseload is now around 550 children approximately. Diagnostic assessments commenced in 2008 and the team conduct assessments with approximately 150 children per year.
Today Cope Foundation supports around 2,300 people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism in Cork city and county.