Ability Links: award winning disability support program

Connecting community across North West NSW

Ability Links NSW is a disability support program that links together people with disabilities and local community workers.

In December 2017 Ability Links NSW celebrated 1 million community connections made across the state. This milestone highlighted the important work Pathfinders disability support program does in supporting people to develop a sense of belonging in their communities and in making communities more inclusive.

“Ability Links NSW program wouldn’t thrive without our dedicated Linkers’ thorough knowledge of and connection with the communities we work in. The 1 million and counting community connections that Linkers have made allow them to support people accessing the program to reach their goals and ultimately live the lives they want to live. Overwhelmingly we find people want connection with their communities, but sometimes they’re not quite sure where to start. That’s where Ability Links can help. A community connection can be as simple as connecting someone with the local men’s shed and community garden or even working with a community group to support them in becoming inclusive.”

Brett – Ability Links Coordinator

In the New England North West, Pathfinders’ Ability Links program made almost 18,000 community connections just in one year.

As part of the Ability Links program, Brett worked with a young Inverell local for almost three years. When they first met, the participant suffered from extreme anxiety and hadn’t left his home in almost six months.

Now, he attends chiropractor visits, dentist appointments and education with Brett’s help. Together, they walk around town and enter shops – something the participant hadn’t done for nearly four years prior to working with Brett and the Pathfinders’ Ability Links NSW program.

The community connections that have been made through the program have allowed for many people with mental or physical disabilities to grow and reach huge milestones. This helped our participants to forge a sense of belonging and mastery in their communities.

Ability Links Wins Premier’s Award for Public Service – November 2017

Ability Links NSW Providers and Family and Community Services (FaCS) won the Premier’s Awards for Public Service in the Improving Government Services category in November 2017. Ability Links providers and FaCS were recognised for their work that contributes to improving customer satisfaction with government services, which supports the Premier’s priority to improve customer satisfaction with key government services every year.

Inverell local Brett Pischke, Pathfinders Ability Links Program Coordinator, said the nomination is a testament to the impactful work and positive connections built through the Ability Links programs across the state.

“Ability Links providers across New South Wales have helped more than 80,000 participants, and much of that success can be attributed to the approachability and helpfulness of the Linkers. Linkers help their participants build confidence and improve community inclusion, which in turn improves their satisfaction and relationship with government services and initiatives.”

Brett Pischke

Linkers work to connect participants to information, resources, groups, education and employment services to best achieve the individual’s goals and dreams across New South Wales.

According to Urbis Director of Economic and Social Advisory Alison Wallace, who was responsible for the three-year evaluation of Ability Links, “The program model is a winner.”

In 25 years of evaluating government initiatives, I have rarely come across a program that has achieved so much in such a short space of time. People with disability, their families and carers highly value Ability Links and told us countless stories of the positive impact it has had. The evaluation clearly shows that people’s lives really are being changed.”

Alison Wallace

Not-for-profit and community services provider, Pathfinders, is honoured to be part of the organisations and providers being recognised, with their services assisting more than 260 participants this year in Inverell, Armidale, Glen Innes, Moree and Tamworth.

Congratulations to all Ability Links providers and to our Pathfinders Ability Links team and staff who’ve helped the program positively impact the participants we work with and the communities we worth within.

Ability Links Recognised at Tamworth Access Awards

Fresh off the heels of its Premier’s Award win for Improving Government Services, Ability Links is once again being recognised for its contribution to providing accessible and inclusive services to the community.

Tamworth Access Award finalist certificate to Pathfinders Ability Links

Pathfinders Ability Links staff in Tamworth were one of 33 finalists in the Tamworth Regional Council’s 2017 Tamworth Access Awards at the Tamworth Community Centre last week.  Tamworth Linkers Rebecca Browning and Kellie Stewart were present to the accept the Finalist recognition.

Browning said this recognition validates the efforts of the Pathfinders’ Ability Links team in assisting people with a disability, their families and carers to fulfil their goals and dreams while supporting the development of more inclusive communities.

“The Pathfinders Ability Links Festival of Abilities this year was an added testament to our positive contributions in making Tamworth an accessible community, with more than 2000 people and 40 local businesses and organisations gathering in the heart of town to celebrate people of all abilities,” she said.

“It’s always an honour to be recognised for our efforts and to see the Council awarding and supporting local individuals and organisations who are creating a more accessible and inclusive environment for people living with a disability,” she said.

Brett Pischke, Pathfinders Ability Links Coordinator, said that being a Tamworth Access Award finalist recognises both Ability Links’ and Pathfinders’ efforts in providing people with a disability the same opportunities and rights enjoyed by all others.

“Pathfinders’ mission is to see thriving communities in which all fully participate and develop freely through trust and acceptance, and the Ability Links team is doing just that. We’re fostering a sense of belonging and independence for our participants living with a disability while supporting the development of accessible communities for all.”

Brett Pischke – Ability Links Coordinator
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