More than just a job

Nathan Hoare wears a wide smile when he returns from his weekly shift at a Richmond plant nursery and he enjoys showing his support workers the cash he has earnt that day.

Nathan, 31, lives at Villa Maria Catholic Homes’ Austin Street, Victoria’s first purpose-built residence for 10 young people with acquired brain injuries who may otherwise live in nursing homes.

Nathan’s passion is horticulture and one of his goals since arriving at Austin Street eight years ago has been finding paid employment.

“Before Nathan’s accident he was a plumber’s apprentice and one of the things he missed was the mateship with his co-workers. So he loves that now,” Austin Street manager, Jo Herbert, said.

The journey to this goal started with Austin Street staff and other supporters fundraising more than $20,000 for Nathan to purchase a standing wheelchair that would allow him to stand up to work in his garden, sell his plants at local markets and interact with customers face-to-face when talking to them.

His VMCH support team also worked closely with Nathan to help him set up his own business selling his plants at community markets on weekends. His occupational therapist contacted nurseries in the local area asking them to consider Nathan for a job until one day she found the suitable place for him. He now works at Glasshaus Nursery once a week and a VMCH support worker accompanies him to the shift.

 With support and thanks to Nathan’s can-do attitude, he has been able to achieve something that is out of reach for many people with disability – a job.

About 50 per cent of people with a disability are employed compared to 83 per cent of the general population.

One of the major goals of the NDIS is to assist people with disability who want to work to have the resources and support to do that.

Increased employment participation of 370,000 Australians with a disability by 2050 is expected to lead to an additional $50 billion in GDP. That is why NDIS advocates say it is not only a socially responsible policy – it pays for itself.

VMCH Senior Manager NDIS, Community and Disability Services, Ben Spooner, says there are many ways individuals can access supports that can help them gain new skills and eventually enter the workforce.

“At VMCH we provide supports to help people access employment and make sure that they can make a good go of it and be successful,” he said.

“It might be something like a support worker going with them to their workplace and providing some personal support during the day. It may be help with social skills and integration into the workplace. We also provide allied health services that can help assess physical environments and help modify those environments.”

VMCH also offers students with a disability the chance to develop the skills they need to pursue paid and volunteer work.

A Certificate 1 Work & Education is offered at VMCH’s Wantirna Community Hub and aims the build the skills and self-confidence of students who want to enter the workforce or volunteer.

Students recently got a taste of working in hospitality when they served customers in a gourmet food van. Before their big day their trainers prepared them in the classroom by teaching them about policies around food preparation and handling, social skills, how to operate an EFTPOS and other important skills.

One of the trainers, Deb Roche, said the students got a lot from doing the course and especially the work experience.    

“They all looked so happy and overwhelmed that everyone came out to buy their toasties. It was amazing. We snuck a little tip jar out so the students could get a little money.  They were all so proud because they had done it.”

Three steps to meaningful work with VMCH support

1: It all starts with a plan

Call VMCH to learn ways that employment can be included in your NDIS plan.

2: Let’s workshop this

Attend one of VMCH’s free NDIS workshops. VMCH runs regular pre-planning workshops and our NDIS experts can help people develop goals and then map out what supports they need in all aspects of their life.

3: Teamwork makes the dream work!

VMCH can help individuals build a team to support them while they are developing skills and at work.

A VMCH Disability Support Worker can help individuals who may need support while they are training and at work.

A VMCH Support Coordinator can also help people devise a plan to achieve their goal and find the right supports.

It could be anything from social skills, IT, modifying work environments and liaising with an employer to facilitate good communication.

Call VMCH Disability Services on 1800 798 921 for more information.