Opinion | 14 September 2016

NDIS. Personal growth, new opportunities

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Thea Wild Rumpus

The NDIS rollout in Victoria has encouraged new enterprises – from sole traders to not-for-profit associations.

Back in December 2012, in Geelong, before the NDIS was set up there as the Barwon trial site, James Asciak began operating as a sole trader providing one-to-one recreational companionship for individuals needing social support. He called his program Wild Rumpus.

James had experience running activities for siblings, and he was good at connecting people in the beautiful semi-rural and coastal outdoor environment of the Barwon region. It was his work as a case manager that led him into running his own support program.

“Case management was frustrating,” James says, “with insufficient disability funding and a crisis-driven response. And sometimes the programs offered weren’t effective. It was very hard getting good outcomes for people with complex behaviour support issues, even when they had funding packages.”

With his empathy, great communication skills and profound awareness of the mental health benefits of recreation, James took the leap into registering as a provider of one-to-one support that suited individuals’ needs. In addition to that, he wrote funding submissions to set up holiday programs and sibling groups. Demand for his services grew and he began to employ others to work with him collaboratively and creatively. When the NDIS was set up in Barwon, Wild Rumpus was ready to meet the participant demand for skills development.

In January 2016, James established Wild Rumpus Community Services as a registered disability service provider with the NDIS, tailoring supports to meet individuals’ goals.

Wild Rumpus progressed a young woman seeking independence in using public transport from one-to-one support on her bus to shadowing her journey, with staff driving behind her bus to see her safely alight at her destination. Her progress with shopping was supported in a similar way, staff attending shops with her at first and then withdrawing after monitoring her independent success at buying listed grocery items.

For a young man seeking skills to work in retail, Wild Rumpus provided support for him to obtain a job in an Op Shop. In the beginning a worker would attend the shop with him and prompt him to integrate all the tasks required. For instance, he needed to learn that after working out the back checking-in new stock, he needed to return to the counter to attend to customers. Such was his progress that he is now able to work in the shop alone, supported as needed with telephone calls from Wild Rumpus staff.

Wild Rumpus Community Services empowers initiative in staff and participants alike, with a level of risk management that allows individuals to increase their capacity to function effectively in the community. James, the director, is also generous in sharing the success of his service model with other community start-ups seeking to develop their own programs for NDIS participants. This exciting new sharing culture emerging in service provision is thanks to the opportunities provided by the NDIS marketplace.

There are many stories just like James’, which you can read on Clickability – a new service directory featuring ratings and reviews of services by the people who use the services.

It was founded in 2014 by two Victorian social workers, and it is soon to go national.

A review on Clickability, written by the mother of a Wild Rumpus participant, sums up what is great about the program:

“Fantastic, enthusiastic young staff support young people with a disability to do fun, age appropriate stuff. Staff are like peers, mentors to young people. These guys have set the standard very high and it’s hard now to settle for second best.”

The move away from the old one-size-fits-all service model allows a flexible response to participants while providing a more satisfying experience for workers.

From a negative experience of working in the old inflexible underfunded way of disability support, James Asciac has created a positive work environment with great potential for personal growth in the new environment of the NDIS.

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