Gateways disability support expands in Melbourne’s west with Footscray office
Outings with friends, camps, musicals, gym sessions and cooking classes are just some of the activities that keep St Albans sisters Kerrin and Fiona and their Gateways support workers busy each week.
And with a new office at 77 Droop St, Footscray, and 18 new local jobs currently being filled, Gateways is poised to help even more National Disability Insurance Scheme participants across Melbourne’s west make the most of their plans.
Kerrin, 36, who has a soft spot for musical theatre, has ensured her 10 hours of weekly individual support funding gives her access to the things she enjoys doing most.
Hard pressed to name a favourite among the many shows she has seen in her 18 months with Gateways, Kerrin says she has enjoyed seeing Billy Elliott, Chorus Line, Jersey Boys and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and is looking forward to seeing Shrek the Musical in the new year.
‘The carers are really nice people, they’re respectful and they understand your physical disabilities and they know how to help you,’ Kerrin says. ‘We go to dinner and I go with my personal carer to shopping, the movies, swimming and I like to do all those things that’s out in the community.
‘My carer is Tamara and she helps me a lot. We go to the movies a lot, we enjoy our time out together. We have a lot of fun, a lot of laughs.’
Fiona, 34, who has been with Gateways (previously Interchange) for five years says that while she usually joins her sister on camps to places like Echuca and Healesville, they often choose separate activities to hang out with their own sets of friends.
‘I see my friends once or twice a month, depending on which activities we pick. I like catching up with friends through Gateways and find out what they are doing, and making new friends sometimes,’ Fiona says.
The girls’ mother, Ann, says the social benefit of Gateways Support Services goes beyond the friendships and participation enjoyed by her daughters.
‘Gateways has really helped my family. It gives the girls time to go out whereas before they never went out hardly ever, and it gives me a break as well,’ Ann says.
Kerrin’s support worker, Tamara Cofre, says the introduction of the NDIS in western Melbourne has changed how carers work, giving them more flexibility to get to know participants and select activities that meet their interests and needs.
‘Kerrin and Fiona have essentially become part of my network of friends in a way because we go out, we do things that are totally age appropriate, we watch movies, we go swimming, we laugh, we have jokes. I think my job has become a lot more fun,’ Tamara says.
‘We can work together through the week and then seeing them on the weekend with their friends laughing, making jokes, talking, dancing; you get to see them in all of their elements, not just one. And I think just watching them become so independent and so involved in the local community makes work so worth it for me.’
Since its beginnings in Geelong more than 20 years ago Gateways Support Services has established a national reputation as an accredited provider of quality disability support services including support coordination, speech therapy, occupational therapy, recreation programs and camps for children and adults, supported accommodation and pre-school inclusion services.
Western Melbourne Manager Jayne Donovan says Gateways long-standing experience with the NDIS means it is ideally placed to help people navigate the system and find the best local supports and services to help them reach their personal goals.
She says Gateways staff represent a range of cultures to meet the needs of local communities within the western Melbourne region.
‘Often, people don’t engage because they don’t know or understand what is going on or they don’t know what to ask for in their plan. They might not know that a program is a disability funded service,”Ms Donovan says.
‘This is especially the case if English is not the family’s primary language. So we take people through the process, explain what it means and what to do. If you want open and transparent communication, you come to us.’