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Client in Focus: Central Coast Disability Network Posted on October 9, 2018

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In 1979, Central Coast Disability Network was established by local community members as the “Combined Enabling Trust of the Central Coast for the Handicapped”, supporting “mentally and physically handicapped persons”, to own and operate purpose built accommodation, and to set itself as a charity that raises funds and awareness for improved services.

Whilst the organisation has undertaken a number of changes, the most significant one is the name. The term “handicapped” is no longer used in favour of “disability” in Australia. Now known as Central Coast Disability Network, the organisation’s mission is “to ensure all people with a disability are able to participate in the community”. The focus is not to be everything to everyone with a disability, but to provide exceptional services in areas of strength and find the most appropriate agency or business to collaborate with for other areas.

“Supporting individuals to reach their personal goals to enable them to participate in the community requires us to build strong networks,” Jenny says.

With the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in July 2016, Central Coast Disability Network are gearing up for the opportunities it will hold for people with a disability, carers and service providers. This has seen the organisation recruit some exceptional staff from diverse backgrounds, including those with transferable skills from other industries.

“Our own client base is small, but we have brokerage contracts with many agencies throughout the area who engage us to deliver services on their behalf. This sees us supporting a large number of clients right around the Central Coast. We have built an excellent reputation, developed some strong relationships, and have staff who enjoy coming to work. That’s a win for all those that we support.” says Jenny.

For organisations similar to Central Coast Disability Network, rapid growth has been evidenced in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) trial sites, anticipating a doubling of workforce, and an increase in the client base. In the next 12 months, however, Jenny says that the organisation expects to build opportunities to partner with others.

Traditionally, disability services have relied on government funding provided quarterly in advance, with agencies being told what outputs were required for that funding. The NDIS will see agencies being paid in arrears only for those services they provide. There will be no additional funds for the operating costs as the fees schedule does not fully meet these. Therefore, small agencies such as Central Coast Disability Network will struggle without the reserves, and diversification of income, that some larger agencies have been able to establish.

Jenny explains “Troy, Cassie, Nick and the team have helped us with moving to Xero software. While it took a while to tailor it to our specific needs, it has certainly assisted in our preparation for the future.

We are fortunate to have Robson Partners attend our Board meetings, where they inform our Board of our financial position and suggest opportunities for change. Together, we are learning what is required for the implementation of NDIS and it is reassuring to know that we have a team that is with us on this journey.

They are always keen to learn more about out business, and to understand our challenges as a small charitable organisation.”

Unfortunately, Central Coast Disability Network has struggled with the changes, loosing some good staff who became disillusioned with what lay ahead and did not want to go through the necessary change. Nonetheless, there is now a very strong and capable team that is eager to move forward. That team is built from many individuals, with many different strengths, a good sense of humour and a ‘can do’ attitude.

Over the last 12 months, the team at Central Coast Disability Network has assisted a number of its clients with gaining independence in the community – from clients gaining paid employment to moving into their own accommodation, and achieving their personal goals.

The plans in the next 12 months are to continue to grow on personal service, that is responsive to the needs of the individual, and allowing the organisation to be an employer of choice. They aim to continue to work towards their mission, being true to their values, and respecting the trust that people place in them when they engage our services.

Jenny says the best thing about their accountant is – “Troy and Cassie are always available to us. They are part of our organisation, and are prompt in responding to any questions that arise. They are honest and tell us if they don’t know the answer, but always get back to us as soon as they do. With a team behind them, there is always someone in the office that has the expertise in whatever area it is.

They have assured us that we are on the right path and that we have a good business, but more importantly that they have provided the professional accounting support that we needed. Once we started to grow we knew that our financial needs were also growing. From the moment we met Troy, we knew we were in good hands.”

The finance manager from Central Coast Disability Network speaks with Robson Partners on a regular basis, usually with a quick question or to clarify something. “Cassie attends our monthly Board meetings, and is coming to a conference to learn more about NDIS. They’re part of our business. Nick is our Xero expert, and we appreciate the training he has provided in establishing Xero.”

The learning journey never seems to end for Jenny – She is currently completing an MBA. She would like to see the business continue to grow, but would like to find an opportunity for a larger commercial partner to support the organisation. Other than that, she enjoys Latin dancing and is looking forward to being a part of the Australian Latin Dance Championships in July. Jenny adds “I plan to travel and spend time with my children and grandchildren who are important to me. At the end of the day, we all need a life outside of work to keep us balanced and to allow us to enjoy what we do each day.”

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