July was a big month for SSI, with several new programs starting, but the 12 month anniversary of Ability Links NSW has stood out for me as being particularly significant and emblematic of the organisation’s future.
Many great stories have come from this program in a short space of time; here are just a couple of randomly selected examples.
Paulette, 38, is a mother of two young boys who suffered from depression and social isolation. Paulette contacted an SSI Linker at a Wellness Expo and asked for support. Paulette had no savings and no family to call on, she said. She asked her Linker for assistance finding counselling for her sons, one of whom had behavioural problems, and crisis support to help buy groceries and meet new people to break her isolation.
Paulette and her Linker worked together to find social networks, such as the Arabic Speaking Women’s group, a local Women’s Resource Centre and an organisation that provides a range of support services. Following this, Paulette said she felt empowered and “very happy”. Ability Links has also assisted Paulette to find volunteer opportunities, a TAFE course, recreational activities for her two sons, and a suitable GP.
Another example involves a 15-year-old boy who was socially isolated for years while dealing with behavioural problems, until a juvenile court order referred him to an Ability Links Linker. The boy, James, did not show any interest at first in trying new activities or meeting new people. But with the right support from his Linker, who involved James’s mother, he eventually linked with people at Youth Zone. After one visit, James wanted to return and he has, by all reports, grown in confidence, made new friends and improved his behaviour.
These are just two examples from 3,235 people who have contacted SSI’s Ability Links program, resulting in almost 15,500 new links with community services, activities and people. These are reasons for everyone involved in Ability Links, including SSI’s partners UnitingCare and St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, to be very proud.
I have written before about my own family’s experience to highlight the importance and value of a program like Ability Links but it can’t be overstated. Earlier in my life, my cousin suffered a spinal injury in a car accident that put her in a wheelchair. She was 16 at the time, and from a small country town in North Queensland. She went on to marry a terrific man who, in effect, became her Linker, helping her keep her connected to education, the community and many activities. My cousin has led a full life raising three children, who are now adults.
But not everyone with a disability has someone to fill in the support gaps like my cousin’s husband. This is why the work that SSI’s Linkers do is so important.
Just 12 months ago this was a new program area to SSI and its staff. As SSI continues to expand its services in this way and move into new program areas, we plan to integrate them to provide even greater, more efficient support. We envisage that Ability Links clients who come to SSI seeking support will be able to find accommodation through SSI, if that’s what they need, or employment, volunteer opportunities, education or social activities.
The same opportunities will be there for SSI’s clients who are refugees or who are seeking asylum. SSI could become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for support and essential services. The potential is great and very exciting for people concerned about the outcomes of SSI’s diverse clients.
SSI General Manager