SSI celebrates 12 months of delivering the Ability Links NSW program today, July 22, with staff and partners in Parramatta. The program, funded by the NSW Government’s Department of Family & Community Services, Ageing, Disability and Home Care, began operating on July 1 2014.
SSI Linkers Li Hua Chu and Fred Mitchell.
Since then, SSI has assisted more than 3000 people across 44 Local Government Areas.
SSI works in partnership with UnitingCare and St Vincent de Paul Society to deliver the program in parts of NSW.
SSI Linkers have strong local knowledge and work closely with people with disability, their families and carers, and the local community to ensure that people with disability can participate and live inclusively.
SSI Linkers, many of whom are bilingual and bicultural, are recruited to work with people and communities from diverse backgrounds, reaching further into the community to access those more vulnerable, and making it easier for people of all backgrounds to feel supported to achieve their goals.
Speaking at the celebration today SSI Manager Inclusion and Services Steve O’Neill said the program had grown from strength to strength.
Mr O’Neill said: “We have a fantastic team of very dedicated Linkers and Coordinators, and participants have praised the program and our staff”.
“Of the 3000 people assisted in the past 12 months, more than 60% were from a CALD background and a quarter of them had a mental health issue.
“These are people who are traditionally quite hard to reach, so the reports indicate the real benefits of the program, and the many thousands of contacts being made and networks being tapped into,” Mr O’Neill said.
Fred Mitchell is the SSI Linker based in Cooma, and covers an area of 500 square kilometres across three LGAs. At this time of year many of the roads are blocked with snow or too slippery to travel on.
Mr Mitchell spends 20-30 hours a week travelling between meetings, and tries to make it to his Cooma office at least once a week.
“It is certainly a different and sometimes challenging experience being a Linker in the regions, but the Ability Links program is exactly what’s needed in these areas,” Mr Mitchell said.
Mr Mitchell has an average of 12-13 participants that he provides support to at any given time, many of whom still live with their families or are single men.
“Some of the smaller towns are really isolated, some don’t have mobile phone coverage, and some of my participants don’t even have a landline.”
“I’m working mainly with people who are on the ‘edges’ and not accessing services, but in the time I’ve been working (with SSI) I think I’ve made a difference ” Mr Mitchel said.
“Working with local communities to help change attitudes is what I enjoy the most.
“I’m essentially doing myself out of a job, but if communities can become more open and accepting then I won’t need to work with individuals anymore.”
SSI Linker Li Hua Chu is based in a very busy Campsie office and attends many community group meetings to give presentations about Ability Links.
Ms Chu says she also works with an average of 10-15 participants but they all still live with their family or carer, so she often works in partnership with another Linker – one for the participant, one for the parent/carer.
“I make as many connections as possible and meet as many people in the community that I can, so it’s not often that I can’t make the links that they need,” Ms Chu said.
“For me this is my dream job with a wonderful program and I feel so joyful when I can see a happy family that I’ve been able to assist, or when a participant tells me they now feel ‘empowered’ or ‘more comfortable’.”