Interview with Margaret Lewis
What’s your role with the Life Without Barriers (LWB) organisation, and what’s involved with this position on a day-to-day basis?
I am the Operations Manager for the Lower Mid North Coast. The region is part of the Northern area and covers the Great Lakes, Manning and Hastings LPSs. My role is to manage the overall provision of programs we have in the region, to liaise with relevant stakeholders including government departments and to ensure our clients’ needs are met as closely as possible. I lead a wonderful team of people who have a diverse range of skills. They work directly with the clients and in some cases they also lead teams who work in the provision of direct client care.
What’s some of the history behind the establishment of Life Without Barriers nationally?
In 1995, two community leaders from Newcastle who shared a passion for improving the lives of people living with a disability proposed to create a new non-government, secular organisation for people living with a disability. A Board was formed, and Life Without Barriers commenced operation. Chief Executive Officer Ray Dunn joined the team in 1999.
LWB recruited more staff, enhanced and expanded the original disability programs, and applied for government funding. In 2000, Out-Of-Home-Care services, such as foster care, commenced in New South Wales. The demand for these services increased rapidly because of the unique community based approach of LWB. Between 2001 and 2005, Out-Of-Home-Care services commenced in South East Queensland, Central and Far North Queensland operations commenced, and LWB established itself in South Australia.
The LWB model of care expanded into mental health services in South Australia. Services commenced in the Northern Territory and new programs were developed in collaboration with local Aboriginal communities to provide culturally appropriate care. In 2006, operations were established in Tasmania and Far West NSW and in 2007, Life Without Barriers launched services in Western Australia. It was also in 2007 LWB won the Australian Business Award for Innovation for our unique approach to mental health and Indigenous support services.
In 2008, LWB became the largest non-government provider of disability services in the Northern Territory. The organisation held its first annual reconciliation event and established the Carer Advancement and Training Team.
In 2009, LWB hosted its inaugural Carer Conference, attracting carers from all around the country. The organisation commenced providing care to unaccompanied asylum seekers on Christmas Island. Operations were established in Victoria and LWB expanded into New Zealand, gaining approval to be an out-of-home care provider.
In 2010, a new five year strategic plan was developed identifying key success areas for the organisation. The implementation of a consistent National Service Delivery Model commenced for out-of- home-care services.
In 2011, Claire Robbs was appointed as Chief Executive Officer, Life Without Barriers was accredited as a home and community care provider, and services to support refugees and asylum seekers expanded to include provision of community detention.
How long has the organisation been operating in the Manning-Great Lakes?
LWB started providing Out of Home care services in the local area in 2004. There were a small number of carers who were supported by a small team managed from the Newcastle office. In early 2005, some disability programs were established, and later in 2005 a local Coordinator was employed to support and build on these programs. In 2007, the local office was opened in Taree, and the Port Macquarie office was opened in 2010.
What are the aims of the organisation?
LWB is an organisation that identifies the ‘gaps’ in service provision and develops models of service which can meet the need and are sustainable into the future.
Our Vision: Communities where disadvantage is challenged and people are empowered.
Our Mission: We support vulnerable and marginalised people to reach their full potential.
Relationships first: we value meaningful, healthy relationships, and it is the difference and the foundation of everything we practice. We engage in meaningful dialogue and communicate openly. We work collaboratively with individuals, families and communities. We listen and reflect, empathise and seek answers.
Quality delivery uncompromised: we are an ethical organisation that looks to provide client focused services. We take an evidence-based approach, we undertake research and we measure our outcomes. We are efficient and effective, delivering value for money through our services. We are flexible, responsive and innovative, and we continually look to improve what we are doing and how we do it.
Honesty: we are optimistic to future potential. Our philosophy is to be open, accountable and to set realistic goals and deliver on expectations. We follow through with what we say we will do. We challenge established ways of thinking and we are accountable for our actions. We build hope by increasing opportunities, capabilities and independence. We create safe environments for honest dialogue and we encourage and respect feedback.
Everyone is valuable: we are an organisation dedicated to caring, and we never give up. We are centred on people. We have faith in the human spirit, we embrace and value diversity and we are culturally respectful. We value our clients, our people and our stakeholders. Our approach is to see capability and possibility.
What are some of the services/programs offered by LWB locally?
The main program areas in our region are Out of Home Care and Disability.
In the Out of Home Care program, we recruit, train and support carers who care for young people who are in the care of the Minister.
How do people access these services – are referrals necessary?
People who use the services provided by LWB are mainly referred through Department of Family and Community Services (DoCS and ADHC). Generally funding is allocated to an individual or group of individuals/program and LWB then provides the programs as per the relevant guidelines. There are some exceptions which may be ‘short term’ needs for support; these are sometimes ‘brokered’ to LWB from other organisations.
Life Without Barriers is a not-for-profit organisation. Is it possible for members of the public to offer either monetary or volunteer assistance, and if so, how would they go about doing this?
If people wish to donate they can do this through a link on the website www.lwb.org.au. They can also call in at the Taree or Port Macquarie offices. All donations over $2 are tax deductable. There are many ways to volunteer with LWB. Our carers are voluntary carers who are paid an amount for reimbursement. There are other ways to volunteer; the best idea is to contact us at the office if you wish to do so.
Where can people go to find out more information?
The number for the Taree office is 6539 2100. People can phone this number and our Admin Officer, Mikaela, will put you in touch with the person who can best assist you with your query. You can learn more about LWB by going to the website www.lwb.org.au
This interview was found in issue 70 of Manning Great Lakes Focus