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New disability provider opens in Casino

girl in a wheelchair being cared for by a care worker

Disability support provider, Accessible Care & Lifestyle Services (ACALS), has opened a Casino office to provide much-needed Support Coordination services for people in the Northern Rivers living with disabilities.

Support Coordination is available to eligible National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants and is designed to help them get the most out of the support services in their NDIS plan.

ACALS CEO and founder, Ruth Lopez Gonzalez, said understanding the NDIS isn’t always easy and quality Support Coordination can transform lives.

“The NDIS can be overwhelming to navigate and when it comes to managing NDIS plans, participants don’t always understand their rights, or know how to maximise the services covered in their plan,” said Ms Lopez Gonzalez.

“We want people to know that they don’t have to stick with the one provider for all their supports, and they can change providers at any time if they want to,”

“Education about the NDIS is so important. We see participants who’re suffering because they’re not getting the right level of support. If you need more services, your Support Coordinator needs to advocate for you to get them added to your plan,”

“Support Coordinators shouldn’t take over, because that’s disempowering, but they’re there to help you understand and manage your plan and can request additional funds if needed. This can really change your life. If you’re not getting the support you need, how can you achieve your NDIS plan goals?”

Ms Lopez Gonzalez encourages participants who want Support Coordination included in their plan, to contact the ACALS NDIS Access Officer.

“Make an appointment to see our NDIS Access Officer. In my experience, the success rates are low for participants who apply for Support Coordination on their own, so it’s a good idea to get an advocate to help you. And we offer this service for free, to ensure participants get the support they need.”

ACALS started in Sydney in 2017, and now offers over thirty different Community, Aged Care and Disability Services. The Casino office will initially provide just Support Coordination and add more services in the future.

“We’ve started with the service where we’ve identified a pressing need.”

Ms Lopez Gonzalez, a 20-year disability services veteran, said ACALS started working with the Northern Rivers community during the 2022 floods, and they quickly saw participants needed more support with their NDIS services.

“We were there to help match participants with emergency accommodation and found ourselves educating people about how to manage their NDIS Supports,”

“The NDIS can be time consuming and stressful to navigate. We want to educate people about their rights and choices, and help take the load off participants and their families.”

By April 2022, ACALS started a temporary mobile Support Coordination service in Kyogle, before establishing a permanent office in Casino in August.

“We provided a lot of information to the community in and around Kyogle. Word got around that we did things differently and a lot of people reached out,”

The Casino office is fully accessible and currently has four Support Coordinators. Ms Lopez Gonzalez said participants are matched to a team member and work with them on an ongoing basis.

“We offer continuity of care. Our approach is highly personalised and, if, for some reason, you can’t get through to your Support Coordinator, someone else will always pick up the phone during business hours. You never get the runaround,”

It can take up to three months for Support Coordination funding to be approved and Ms Lopez Gonzalez encourages participants who want Support Coordination included in their plan to request this sooner rather than later.

“Funding takes time. We write end of plan reports and schedule your reviews and then the NDIS does a plan review, so you need to”

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