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NDIS Ready: Disability Service Organisations Merge

2 March 2017 at 8:40 am
Ellie Cooper
Two Sydney-based disability service organisations have joined forces to ensure their survival, and success, as the National Disability Insurance Scheme comes into force.

Ellie Cooper | 2 March 2017 at 8:40 am


NDIS Ready: Disability Service Organisations Merge
2 March 2017 at 8:40 am

Two Sydney-based disability service organisations have joined forces to ensure their survival, and success, as the National Disability Insurance Scheme comes into force.

In an effort to avoid closure, Rec Ability, which offers people with disability social activities and holiday program, reached out to Civic Disability Services for support.

Civic, which provides services for people with intellectual disability and mental illness in locations across New South Wales, decided to help, taking on Rec Ability’s staff and clients.

The two organisations operate under Civic, but Rec Ability’s name has been retained for their programs, now called Civic Rec Ability.

Civic CEO Annie Doyle told Pro Bono News the “integration”, as the organisations are calling it, was, at least in part, a result of the looming NDIS rollout, which comes into force in South Eastern Sydney on 1 July.

“If the NDIS hadn’t occurred and if they’d stayed under ADHC [ageing, disability and home care] funding, they may well have stayed the same organisation,” Doyle said.

“With the advent of NDIS, they didn’t have the back office, the compliance, the necessary resources to bring their clients on board.

“We at Civic have customer service teams, we have an NDIS team, those teams are transitioning all of our clients, and so for us to slot in another 60 clients… was easy.”

She said the close alignment of values between organisations also made the integration seamless.

“Some of our clients were already using their services, and we’d heard of Rec Ability for a long time,” she said.

“So when they rang us to say: ‘Is there an opportunity to talk to Civic about maybe tucking in underneath,’ we were open to it because we knew their reputation and we knew they had similar mission, vision and values.

“Other people have come our way but they don’t have our philosophy and mindset. And whilst we’re going into a commercial model, we still have to have that ethos, that special something that resonates within our organisation so that we don’t tuck in an organisation that is totally alien to us.”

She also said taking over Rec Ability “made good sense” and offered clients greater choice and security.

The programs provided by Rec Ability will offer more leisure and social opportunities for Civic clients, while Rec Ability clients will now have access to Civic’s wider services range.

“It is a mutual advantage because Civic clients get to have to this amazing choice in holiday programs and in social events, so basically value adding for our clients,” Doyle said.

“And in the new world of choice and control we’re looking at opportunities where clients actually chose to be in these supported environments, but doing things that we at Civic hadn’t really established.

“The take up by our clients of their programs has been enormous. They’ve been in the building less than a month and we’ve had a huge uptake.”

Rec Ability president Rapti Nethery said they were pleased with the continued delivery of their services, as well as roles for all their staff and volunteers.

“Our 2017 holiday program will be going ahead as planned as well as our much-loved social events,” Nethery said.

“Our committed volunteers who support the activities of Rec Ability are highly valued within the organisation and there will be new opportunities for them at Civic.

“We are looking forward to launching our leisure activities to a new group of clients in South Western Sydney, the Blue Mountains and beyond.”

Civic already has experience with transitioning clients onto NDIS, in the Hunter, South Western Sydney and the Nepean Blue Mountains regions.

Doyle said innovation –  including mergers and partnerships – was not optional under the scheme.

“I think that organisations that think they can still do the same old same old, in three years time they just won’t exist,” she said.

“We’re developing new models, we’re changing the way we offer packages to our clients, we’re changing how we hire staff, we’re trying to get great outcomes for clients, which is what it’s all about.

“So, yes, it’s a huge change to our way of delivering the services, the opportunities for our clients. We’ve been on a huge transition journey… it’s something that we’ve embraced and we’re excited about because we think there will be great outcomes for our clients.”

Along with adapting for the new NDIS market, Civic is preparing for growth.

South Eastern Sydney is expected to experience a 79 per cent increase in demand.

“We have probably doubled our back office to facilitate appropriate staff to advocate for our clients, to advise our clients, to talk to our family members, to be great support coordinators – all of those things to enable our clients to get fair plans that reflect their disability and to give them the best opportunity so that they get better outcomes,” Doyle said.

“That’s something we’ve been really driving from the minute that we entered the NDIS space.

“Our customer service team is probably the fastest growing area in our business at the moment because we need to open the doors to our clients and they need to have someone who listens to them.

“That’s the thing I suppose was missing in the days of ADHC. You kind of had a bucket of money and you spent it according to how you as an organisation saw fit, now that the bucket of money rests with the client you have to invoke those appealing opportunities for them, and so you’re enticing a different market.

“Not only are we looking at retaining our own clients because we offer them great services, but we’re also looking at appealing to the market in general, and seeing if other people would be interested in our services.”

Doyle also said Civic had “really embraced the partnership thing” under the NDIS.

“We have begun significant collaboration and partnerships because, effectively, our clients are going to cross over and their clients are going to cross over, so if we don’t have good partnerships this is going to fail anyway,” she said.

“What I love about Civic is we are a small and agile model, we’re not a massive big bureaucracy, so for us to talk to other organisations we find that we can blend a little bit more easily.

“So we really embraced the partnership thing, and sometimes those partners may come a bit closer and tuck in with us, and we have a couple on the radar at the moment because they are also in a similar situation to Rec Ability, just that little bit too small to be able to carry on. Sometimes it’s the back office that’s too much for them or it’s the NDIS that’s too much for them.”

But she warned that collaboration required good timing. She said several years ago Civic would not have been in a position to “tuck in” another organisation.

“We were still getting our own processes in line,” she said.

“You’ve got to be a stable ship to bring another ship on, you have to have a good platform to invite another organisation in because if you’re in a disruptive space and you haven’t got all your processes right and all your technology and the ability to do your NDIS portal transactions, if you don’t have that in play, brining another organisation on just ads to the nightmare, so you need to be in a certain place.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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