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Joy of growing independence

16 August 2011

Joy of growing independence

“Our clients are among the most vulnerable people in our community, and we believe they need to have choice in their lives — buying their own clothing, choosing (and where possible cooking) their meals, setting life goals.

“I have a brother with cerebral palsy, and if he could have had a service like this, his life would have been so much better.” Captain Ed Henderson

Seventy-three-year-old Audrey could not stop smiling, as she clutched her boarding pass and moved to board the plane that would take her from Brisbane to Los Angeles. After two weeks in LA with another friend Christine she would then go on to New York to stay with an old friend on the Hudson River. She loved every sight, sound and experience.

Throughout most of her life, such experiences would have seemed impossible.

Audrey has a moderate disability and has lived in institutions since she was just five years old. She was fed, cleaned and dressed to a regimented routine her whole life. Then, six years ago, for the first time in her adult life, and with government support, Audrey moved into her own home, supported by The Salvation Army Individual Lifestyle Support Service (SAILSS).

Manager of SAILSS, Salvation Army Captain Ed Henderson says: “We have 33 clients who have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, as well as a range of other physical disabilities. The aim of the service is to support and enable them to live successfully in their own homes and function successfully as part of their local communities.”

Lifestyle worker Cheryl Watson says: “We are ‘lifestyle workers’, not ‘carers’. We are there to encourage, support and teach. It may be teaching cooking, budgeting, public transport skills, cleaning, grooming, dealing with the supermarket.

“Many of the clients are very capable, but many have never really been given the opportunity to develop or express what they could do.”

Cheryl says the undertaking to organise the trip to the USA for Audrey and Christine included years of planning, saving, encouraging them to get passports, and organising carers to travel with them.

She says: “There was the budgeting, the excitement of going to travel agents. They bought and learned how to use digital cameras. We had to work through all the details, from getting photos taken for passports, to going through customs. It was a huge, huge undertaking and turned out to be a huge adventure!”

The SAILSS service recently moved from a rented premises to its own building in Toowong (Qld), purchased with the help of bequest funding after rent on the rented premises jumped sharply and unexpectedly.

According to Ed Henderson, the service is seeing some clients move to incredible levels of independence. He says: “We have some clients who have bridged out and live totally by themselves now ... They have work, they live independently. One of our clients [who was orphaned and in institutions for years] wasn’t even able to make herself a cup of tea. Now that young lady lives in a unit by herself, and goes to a range of community activities. She’s totally independent!”

The Salvation Army acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.

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