Jack’s Story: Gazing into a new future

Jack’s Story: Gazing into a new future

Jack Pellizzer is in his last year of high school in Broken Hill. He likes school and, like most 18-year-old boys, he also likes music and movies. But until recently it was difficult for him to tell people what he liked and wanted.


Jack has a number of undiagnosed conditions. After years of genetic testing, he and his parents, Andrew and Melanie, have no answers. He is non-verbal and needs a wheelchair to get around. But last year, Jack and his parents met Angela. And their lives changed.

 

Angela Turner works at Social Futures in Broken Hill and is a Local Area Coordinator for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. In her role she helps people with disabilities and their families to access the supports and therapies they need in order to live their best life.

“Angela! She’s fantastic!” Jack’s mum, Melanie, exclaims. “She really helped us with this Eyegaze technology – she was really on the ball.”

An Eyegaze is a computer with a special camera which tracks a person’s eye movements. This then moves a mouse on a computer screen, laptop or speech-generating device. It can be used to play games, to access the internet, to operate a TV, telephone or music, and importantly, to communicate.


“Now he’s able to tell us things instead of us ruling his life,” Melanie says. “He can tell us when he’s not feeling well, it’s just amazing – he’s over the moon.


“Before we would need to clean up after him, but now he can tell us if he needs help to go to the toilet. It’s amazing. He goes to school and he’s able to tell them what he wants – it’s made life so much easier. Now he is able to tell us, now he is doing the prompting.” Finally, Jack has greater choice and control. And that is what the NDIS is all about.


“Before the Eyegaze (Jack) used a PODD communication book for many years, which has the same symbols as the Eyegaze,” Melanie says.“He would look at a sentence, for example, ‘I want’. “But by the time I flicked through all these pages to work out what it was he wanted, he wasn’t looking anymore, he just can’t concentrate for that long.Whereas the Eyegaze is pretty instant, it turns a page in 1.4 seconds.”


Melanie says she has not had an issue with the NDIS at all. “It’s been brilliant. Even with his therapies and things,it’s been fantastic,” she says.“He’s getting weekly therapies – physio and occupational therapy – and a speech therapist comes up from Adelaide to visit the school every few months.“A few weeks before our first plan was due to expire, we had a meeting with Ange and we were able to go through what Jack was like with his respite and activities, what was working for him and what wasn’t.
“Ange was able to gather quotes and things and work out what we really needed so when the new plan rolled in, it was seamless. No hiccups, no waiting. She made it easy for us, explaining things – she went through everything.”


Social Futures’ Local Area Coordination program assists people with disability to access the NDIS program, and to have greater choice and control over their lives.To find your nearest Social Futures office or to speak to someone about our LAC services, call 1800 522 679.

“Ange was able to gather quotes and things and work out what we really needed so when the new plan rolled in, it was seamless. No hiccups, no waiting. She made it easy for us, explaining things – she went through everything.”

 

Melanie

Jack's mum

Social Futures is a National Disability Insurance Scheme Partner in the Community.
Our Local Area Coordination services connect participants to the NDIS in regional New South Wales.

To contact your nearest LAC call 1800 522 679

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Supporting regional transport solutions 

Supporting regional transport solutions 

There are lots of people working hard to improve transport options for our communities.

Social Futures convene transport working groups throughout the Northern Rivers as a part of our Transport Development Project.

 

The groups bring together public, private and community transport providers, local government, members of parliament and health and social services to identify local issues and work towards reducing transport disadvantage and improve access to affordable transport options for Northern Rivers residents.

It is part of our Transport Development Project focused on reducing transport disadvantage and improving access to affordable transport options for residents of the Northern Rivers.

 

Our ‘going places’ website has information on all the public, private and community transport options available in the Northern Rivers to help you get where you are going without your own vehicle.

 

Visit goingplaces.org.au to plan your journey or download your local transport guide.

Back to school vouchers for children affected by bushfires

Back to school vouchers for children affected by bushfires

Students affected by the 2019/20 fire season have been getting a little help with their school expenses thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.  Social Futures, along with the Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF), worked through 35 schools to distribute a thousand donated $50 vouchers to families across the Northern Rivers region.    

For the first time, the vouchers were sent electronically for students, or their schools, to print up and exchange for school related kit such as books, clothing and stationery.    

“It was a big job finding just which families had been affected by the fires,” explained Social Futures Senior Customer Experience Officer Kim Riches. 

It was such a widespread disaster.  We relied on the schools to fill in the picture, but even finding the right schools took a bit of work,” she said. 

“I think the last vouchers went to Dundurrabin public School,” she added.  

Dundurrabin, a small community inland from Coffs Harbour with less than 100 residents, was badly affected by the Bees Nest fire of September 2019.    

Social Futures also distributed vouchers through their programs like Mijung Jarjums and the Family Referral service.   

“We already have strong connections with the diverse communities across the region, including in remote or disadvantaged areas,” explained Social Futures CEO Tony Davies.  

“So, when we were asked to help out with this project, we were happy to make use our networks and hard working staff to see the vouchers get into the hands of the families that needed them most.” 

Emily Berry of NCRF said, “The vouchers are for purchasing items that students may have lost in the bushfires and have never been able to replace due to limited funds available in the family. We hope these vouchers help inclusion for the students, that they can more easily fit in to their school environment and go on to realise their potential, instead of feeling different, excluded because of their financial hardship.” 

While the fires were indiscriminate, many regional and disadvantaged communities were significantly affected, with homes lost and, in some cases, the school buildings themselves. 

Michelle Dalgleish, principal at Coutts Crossing Public School said many families faced hardship in the aftermath of the fires due to property damage and loss of livestock.  

“Our school community was affected by catastrophic fire conditions in November 2019. The fires threatened lives and property in the area, forcing the school to be declared temporarily non-operational due to safety concerns when the Coutts Crossing village was evacuated. It was an extremely scary time for students, families and the whole community,” said Michelle.  

“The school has worked hard to deliver a range of social-emotional programs to improve student’s resilience and strengthen coping skills in the aftermath of the bushfires. And now the vouchers have brought some welcome financial relief to families and students,” she said.   

All 86 students at Coutts Crossing received a voucher.   

“The school has worked hard to deliver a range of social-emotional programs to improve student’s resilience and strengthen coping skills in the aftermath of the bushfires. And now the vouchers have brought some welcome financial relief to families and students,”

Michelle

Couts Crossing School Principal

Elise moves into a home of her own

Elise moves into a home of her own

Moving into your own home is a special milestone but for Elise Miller, it holds extra significance.

Elise has finally had the birthday party she’s dreamed of for so long, with friends, family and other supporters celebrating in her new purpose-built home.

The sociable 34-year-old has lived with her parents all her life but, according to her mother Vicki, had “clearly” reached the point where she was seeing too much of mum and dad.

Elise has severe cerebral palsy, epilepsy, a mild intellectual disability and is non-verbal but can communicate her needs to those who know her well.

“We bought the block of land a while back with this in mind and hired the architect three years ago, about the same time Elise joined the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” Vicki said.

“It’s taken a while but we wanted to be sure everything was just right, which it now is – the builder has done a really good job.”

Elise moved in at the beginning of August but Vicki had to find and train up a team of eight support workers who will be on hand to provide one-on-one care 24 hours a day, seven days a week in rotating shifts.

“She just loves her new place, she’s more mellow since she’s moved in,” Vicki said.

“Elise enjoys being out and about and likes company, especially when people are having fun. Now she’ll have the extra joy of having her friends over to her own home and having fun there.”

Vicki says she and her husband have built two houses on the block, one for Elise “and one for us to move into when we’re ready to properly retire.”

Elise’s home has three bedrooms and is entirely flat, removing the need for ramps, and also features wide doorways, wide hallways, floor-to-ceiling windows throughout, an accessible bathroom and a large open lounge/kitchen/dining area.

Her NDIS funding has paid for occupational therapy assessments, builder consultations, the installation of an overhead hoist between her bedroom and bathroom, plus key items such as a new bed and shower trolley.

Leftover track from Elise’s bedroom hoist installation has also been routed through to the lounge room so she can have ‘floor time’ there.

“One of the two extra bedrooms will be used by the support workers who stay over while the other will be their office to do reports and other paperwork,” Vicki said.

Elise’s new home is much closer to town, putting her within easy reach of the central business district.

She also has her own modified car that her support workers use to take her to various activities, including her day program.

“Elise spends five days a week with disability service provider Aruma – three days a week she’s out doing various activities with one-on-one support, and two days a week she participates in group activities,” Vicki said.

“She’s one of eight who have been together in that group for 15 years since they left school, and they’re good friends.”

For Vicki and her husband Phillip, Elise’s move into her own place marks the start of a new phase in their lives.

“I have a plan to set up a circle of support for Elise that will take over my role,” she said.

“It will have my two older daughters on it along with other key people, maybe six in total, and between them they’ll take charge of things like making sure her car is registered, that her house gets painted, that doctor’s appointments are made, that things get done when needed.”

Elise’s most recent NDIS plan funded a Support Coordinator for the first time, which has proved invaluable given the circumstances of Elise’s move against the background of the COVID lockdown.

Vicki also receives support from Elise’s Local Area Coordinator Belinda Separovic, who works for NDIS partner Social Futures.

Vicki chuckles wryly that Elise’s place will “probably become party central” once her routine is worked out.

“They’ll be able to have barbies, visit clubs, watch the footy, go to the movies, have charades nights, all the sorts of things that adults do socially which she hasn’t been able to do much of until now because she’s been stuck at home with us – and to be honest that’s boring for her,” Vicky said.

“Her comprehension is pretty good and over recent times she’s learnt to express herself better, so with all the support she’s got now she’ll be able to be a lot more independent.

“The support arrangements we’ve put in place will really allow her to live her own life for the first time – she’ll be able to get up when she wants, do what she wants during the day and go to bed when she wants, just like anyone else in the community.”

“The support arrangements we’ve put in place will really allow her to live her own life for the first time – she’ll be able to get up when she wants, do what she wants during the day and go to bed when she wants, just like anyone else in the community.”

 

Vicki

Elise's mum

Social Futures is a National Disability Insurance Scheme Partner in the Community.
Our Local Area Coordination services connect participants to the NDIS in regional New South Wales.

To contact your nearest LAC call 1800 522 679

Read more participant stories

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Moving into your own home is a special milestone but for Elise Miller, it holds extra significance. Elise has finally had the birthday party she's dreamed of for so long, with friends, family and other supporters celebrating in her new purpose-built home. The sociable...

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NDIS opens up a whole new life for Tasel

NDIS opens up a whole new life for Tasel

FOR many of us, 2020 may turn out to be a year we’d rather forget. But for Maclean woman Jacques Sears, things have never been better.

Ms Sears, also known as Tasel, is deaf, but with the help of the National Disability Insurance Scheme her life has changed for the better.

With the birth of her third child only seven weeks away, change has come at just the right time.

FOR many of us, 2020 may turn out to be a year we’d rather forget. But for Maclean woman Jacques Sears, things have never been better.

Ms Sears, also known as Tasel, is deaf, but with the help of the National Disability Insurance Scheme her life has changed for the better.

With the birth of her third child only seven weeks away, change has come at just the right time.

Tasel said in the past she didn’t have interpreters or funding to help, but thanks to NDIS local area co-ordinator Libby McPhee, from Social Futures, Tasel now has the support she needs.

The 38-year-old uses her NDIS funding for interpretation services, community participation and to purchase assistive technologies.

“They really understood what I needed as a deaf person to be well supported,” she said.

“It’s much better, much improved, thanks to Hilary (my interpreter) and Libby my LAC for their wonderful help.

“It feels different. I’m happier. I can book interpreters, I can train my dog to be a service dog for me – the NDIS has enabled me to do that.”

Jacques Sears with her service dog Sasha.

Tasel’s service dog, Sasha, is a nine-month-old German Shepherd and with help from the NDIS, Sasha is learning sign and voice commands through a local trainer, Grace from K9.

Sasha will then get a vibrating collar to alert her when Tasel wants to communicate with her. As a fully-fledged access dog, Sasha will have a special access dog uniform to identify her.

“It’s really exciting,” Tasel said.

“Training my dog to be a service dog would cost too much without the NDIS, so it is amazing now the NDIS is covering it, and I’m stress free from that worry,” she added.

That’s not the only exciting news Tasel has to share. In just seven weeks she is due to have a baby.

“It’s very active, always punching, kicking and moving around in there,” she said.

“It’s a little boy. We have a name but we’re keeping it secret until the birth.”

Tasel also has a 19-year-old son, Hulieo, living in Canberra and a 16-year-old daughter LaToiah, who lives with her in Maclean.

For Hulieo and LaToiah’s birth, Tasel said she communicated with her doctor writing on paper or the doctor would talk slower so she could lip-read.

Tasel’s partner, Marcus, also helped through the birth, telling her what doctors were saying.

The birth of this new child promises to be a whole different experience for Tasel.

“All of the ongoing appointments I have for the baby I can now have interpreters for, funded through the NDIS, so I feel more confident going through all of these appointments,” Tasel said.

“I can understand what the doctors are telling me. I’m really happy. It’s been such a change for me. I’m feeling really comfortable and good about this – well supported.”

The NDIS has also provided assistive technology funding to support Tasel after her baby is born.

“I have an iPad which means I can book interpreters independently. It’s good to have technology I can use for relay technology, which helps me living remotely,” she said.

Through her assistive technology funding, Tasel has also purchased a baby alarm.

“A receptor is worn on my wrist and one around my waist, and through flashing and vibrating it will wake me when the baby is crying,” she said.

“I also have two doorbells which link to my phone so if somebody is at the door I can see who is there.”

Tasel said her support co-ordinator is currently looking for new accommodation for her daughter, and her newborn, and the new property will have front and back door alarms fitted.

“People use the back door generally because deaf people won’t hear people at the front,” Tasel said.

“That’s why I now have a back and front door alarm. It is a safety thing too. I have funding for a fire alarm also – a flashing light – to fit to the new property once we find it.”

In the future, Tasel plans to learn creative writing through TAFE, but for now her focus will be on her family.

Social Futures is a National Disability Insurance Scheme Partner in the Community.
Our Local Area Coordination services connect participants to the NDIS in regional New South Wales.

To contact your nearest LAC call 1800 522 679

Read more participant stories

Elise moves into a home of her own

Moving into your own home is a special milestone but for Elise Miller, it holds extra significance. Elise has finally had the birthday party she's dreamed of for so long, with friends, family and other supporters celebrating in her new purpose-built home. The sociable...

read more

NDIS opens up a whole new life for Tasel

FOR many of us, 2020 may turn out to be a year we’d rather forget. But for Maclean woman Jacques Sears, things have never been better. Ms Sears, also known as Tasel, is deaf, but with the help of the National Disability Insurance Scheme her life has changed for the...

read more

Madeleine lands her dream job

Madeleine Thompson dreamed of becoming a nurse when she was still in primary school. Now she’s living the dream, having recently secured a permanent role as an Assistant in Nursing at St Joseph’s Nursing Home in the northern NSW town of Lismore. “I’m really enjoying...

read more

Tackling bullying one class at a time

Schools are looking toward an inclusive future thanks to awareness program, ‘Different on the Outside but the Same on the Inside’. Many of us saw the distraught video of nine year old Quaden Bayles and our hearts wrenched seeing the effect of bullying upon a young...

read more

Care factor makes all the difference for Rocky

In 1996, at 29 years of age, Rocky Mileto sustained a severe spinal cord injury from a tackle in a game of rugby union. “I had the ball, it was one on one. Just the wrong angle, wrong timing,” Rocky said. “It was that easy, that simple.  Most injuries, rugby or rugby...

read more

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How our local services stayed connected through COVID-19

How our local services stayed connected through COVID-19

While individuals and households were adjusting to the new reality of social isolation as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, human service organisations were scrambling to figure out how best to keep supporting our most vulnerable community members despite physical distancing restrictions.

Social Futures is a social services provider based in regional NSW. We wanted to do something to help other local organisations get prepared and meet the challenges emerging from the health crisis.

Through our existing Better Chances Forum which is convened by Social Futures, we were able to provide a fortnightly online meeting space where local services could connect, collaborate and support each other.

The use of the Better Chances Forum was important because it brings together sector professionals who work with vulnerable children, young people and families – where there are heightened concerns about the risk of homelessness, domestic and family violence and disengagement from school and community as a result of the lockdown and economic impacts.

Almost fifty professionals from 24 organisations have connected with the sessions  since we began holding them in early April.

The sessions have helped to break down barriers and raise awareness in the sector of additional resources and assistance available to support the families they work with.

As a sector, we were able to more quickly identify emerging trends, such as an increase in child wellbeing reports, and find solutions together.

One challenge was the difficulty many young people faced remaining connected and engaged with education during lockdown.

For children and young people who are at risk, schools can be an important way to connect with their families and offer the right supports. We often say that a school’s duty of care shouldn’t stop at the school gate, but even when students returned to school, parents were being asked to not enter the school grounds and make drop-off and pick-up as quick as possible.

We recognised that teachers needed additional support so we used our online Community-Hub to create a collaborative information pack for schools with details of all the services and resources available in their local area to help them reach out and support their students and families.

Some other actions emerging from the sessions were collecting data and research about how local communities were impacted by COVID-19 to share with government and peak welfare bodies, coordinating care packs for families, working to connect families to early intervention services and legal advice to minimise negative impacts, and liaising with local police around young people who may be out in public during lockdown.

We will continue to provide the online meeting space as we transition out of lockdown and adapt to the new world of physical distancing. While it has undoubtedly been a challenging time, we have also seen some positives in embracing new technologies and new ways of working. While online forums, teleconferences and telehealth have been around for a long time, the lockdown has forced many workers and community members to try these platforms for the first time and see the benefits of being able to connect and collaborate with services, expertise and peers remotely.

As an organisation and a sector we don’t see the goal as eventually ‘going back to the way things were’ but rather embracing a new way of working that holds onto what we have learnt through this experience to become more inclusive, effective and connected.

Delivering services around COVID-19

Social Futures is committed to the continuation of delivering support services in a safe, practical and innovative way while navigating COVID-19.