NERIDA JACKSON attended Harmony Day at Buckingham House day-2-day living centre at Surry Hills. She told us all about the program she works for.
By Nerida Jackson
I work for a program called Ability Links. The staff like to call ourselves Linkers for short. It’s a government-funded program that’s NSW wide, though in the City it’s mainly funded by St Vincent de Paul. I work at their office at Wollomooloo, but I cover pretty much all of Sydney.
Who can access Ability Links?
Ability Links works with people with disability so we can connect them up with services that will help them achieve their goals. It really is as broad as that. We don’t have set forms you have to fill out with lots of invasive questions: we just ask if you identify as having some form of disability. You don’t have to tell us any more than you want to. We can also support families and carers. We will work with anyone aged from 7 to 64, so that’s a huge range.
What can Ability Links do?
The next part of the process is having a chat. We need to find out what you want from life so we know what help we can provide. All Linkers know what services are available locally, so we can use that knowledge to connect you up. You might want a mainstream service, or something really specific. One person who accesses our services told us, “I want to meet up with people to play chess,” so we found a time and a place that suited their needs. You might want to have a conversation with somebody in Chinese, or assistance with your housework, or learn to budget. You’d be surprised how much help is out there. If you need advocacy, we can link you up to an advocacy service. There’s quite a few services of this kind out there. One of the main ones is located at Redfern. Something else I come across a lot is public housing issues, where tenants are having problems with trying to get a transfer and not being listened to, or their homes aren’t receiving important maintenance. Again, we can connect people up with a lot of services who know how to deal with this sort of thing.
Another service we work with are community legal centres. A lady I’m working with at the moment has been involved in a huge legal issue, and she was totally distraught, so we connected her up with Kingsford Legal Centre nearby and they helped her to figure everything out.
We think creatively, and there’s not many things we can’t help with. Sometimes we need to talk with different community organisations and pursue different things with them, and it may not always be clear cut, but we are persistent!
What Nerida likes
The beauty of Ability Links is it’s tailored by what YOU want to do. Taking a TAFE course is a popular goal, and there are a lot of people looking for jobs. Even though we’re not a job search agency, we can offer support in other ways: we could link you up with a job provider, or with someone to who can show you how to prepare a good cover letter and resume. We can also offer tips on how to conduct yourself, the clothes you should wear, and those other little details.
We’ll connect you up with a Linker who “gets” you. You might like to work with someone who’s closer to your age, or you may prefer to work with a lady. We can usually match people up with a worker who meets their preferences. We also try and make the whole process as easy as possible, and that includes meeting where you’d like: at our office, at a café in the community, or even your home. Wherever you feel comfortable is fine by us.
What I love about Ability Links is that we build confidence and capacity in people by working alongside them. When we sit on the computer and search online for different options, they’ll be learning how to do these things by themselves.
I remember one lady, Kerry: when I first met her she was extremely shy. She had numerous disabilities and had been through all the services, but was still feeling very isolated and had such a lack of confidence. The first time I met her it was hard just to get her to speak to me, so we met a number of times over coffee until she got to know me a bit better. She finally started opening up after about six meetings (it’s a good thing I like coffee!). Eventually we started talking in depth, and I asked her “What do you like to do?” And she said, “Well, I’ve always wanted to know how to knit.” After connecting her up with an appropriate service we also linked her up with some language classes. Now she’s attending a gym class. She’s really come out of her shell so much.
All of our services are free. You can call and leave your details, and a Linker will get back to you within a few days. We can chat over the phone, and agree on a place to meet so we can figure out where to go from here.