Support for disability services

INTERCHANGE Central Gippsland has been selected to deliver an innovative respite support school holiday program.

ICG has offices in Leongatha and Newborough, and provides respite and support to families with children with disabilities throughout Gippsland.

ICG received almost $140,000 in State Government funding, as part a the $21 million plan to improve disability respite and carer support services in Victoria. The innovative services, expected to begin mid this year, include respite camps for Koorie families and a social friendship program, pairing a person with autism spectrum disorder or people with an intellectual disability with a volunteer.

ICG general manager Debbie Knight said the aim of the programs was to broaden the participants’ life experiences.

“It will give them a new opportunity to experience different things, form friendships which they haven’t had before,” Ms Knight said.

The programs have been based on “extremely successful” initiatives running in Latrobe City and Baw Baw Shire.

“It also gives parents a break while seeing their child grow in many different ways,” Ms Knight said.

Participants have already showed interest, which Ms Knight said stemmed from the high demand for the support program in the region.

“It is meeting an unmet need; we had people waiting for this service,” she said.

“This is recurrent funding so we will have these programs for about four years.”

Ms Knight hoped the Koorie camps, for children attending special education schools, would fill a gap in the region as a support network for their families.

“It is about building and expanding their strength as a family unit,” she said.

State Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said the funding aimed to improve respite support services and would ultimately lead to improved quality of life for Victorians with a disability.

“By making it easier to access a broader range of respite support services, the government is providing people with a disability, their families, and carers more choice,” Ms Wooldridge said.