Families strained by lack of disability support workers
MELISSA Dowling was ready to pop a bottle of champagne when she received NDIS funding to better her family's quality of life, but then a harsh reality sunk in.
There were very few local services for her to spend the funding on.
She lives in Monto and her 20-year-old son Kaleb has Down syndrome and autism.
He is also non-verbal.
Mrs Dowling is the president of a North Burnett group which provides a support network for people with disabilities, and their families.
She believes a lack of services is taking its toll on families across the region.
"In Monto, at least, all we have is Blue Care and there are only so many workers available," she said.
"To get therapists out to our community takes months to organise because they need a certain amount of clients to make the trip viable."
Mrs Dowling said local families have received between $25,000 to $100,000 for services, and they are struggling to spend it.
She is stumped on how to get more specialised services available to those in need.
But there is something locals can do to help.
"Support workers don't need to be employed in the traditional sense any more. There has been a shift," Mrs Dowling said.
"Something people in the community don't know is that they can be employed directly by families and, depending on a family's plan, they don't have to go through a service provider.
"Let's say a child or adult is interested in woodwork, if there is a retired carpenter up the road who is interested in providing support then they can be directly employed."
Mrs Dowling said it's important for people with disabilities to increase their daily living skills, and gain some form of independence.
Currently there are no services or accommodation available to assist people with disabilities with independent or supported living arrangements.
"My husband and I aren't going to live forever, so Kaleb needs to be able to develop life skills for the long-term" she said.
"Also, for a 20-year-old to spend all of their time with their parents isn't how it should be.
"They should be able to go to lunch with friends, or go down to the swimming pool on a hot day."
Another issue Mrs Dowling raised with the lack of services, is that a large strain is placed on the parents and siblings of the person with disabilities.
"For single mums, the only time they aren't caring for their child is when their child is receiving services or with a support worker."
Support is available to families in Monto and surrounding areas via Facebook group Impact4Monto.