November 18, 2019


Disability support set to be a little closer to home in Merrifield

Pictured: BDS Support Services CEO Barb Van Den Vlekkert with Kobe and Andrew Kennedy and sons
Lachlan, 13 and Noah, 8.

From an article by Jack Paynter, Hume Leader
Sunday 17 November, 2019

Life in one of Mickleham’s newest estates is about to get a little bit easier for the Kenney family.

Merrifield parents Kobe and Andrew have three boys with autism – Bailey, 15, Lachlan, 13, and Noah, 8, – but a lack of support services has seen workers forced to travel up to an hour to reach them.

Ms Kenney said when they first moved in August, 2018 it took them months to find support workers and therapists willing to travel to the greenfield estates in Melbourne’s north.

“We have people that come from the city, South Morang and Epping but sometimes if there’s someone who can’t make it then you don’t get fill in or you have to change the day,” she said.

But that is about to change with estate developers MAB and Gibson Property Corporation set to launch four new local health programs aimed at driving community connection and wellbeing.

The Merrifield Community Partnerships Program has given Hume based not-for-profit BDS Support Services $10,000 to establish a program to assist families of children with autism.

At least five families have already expressed an interest in the program, including the Kenney’s.

“It makes a big difference having supports in place – just having people like support workers come into the house and then they’ll take the boys to do activities with them, Ms Kenny said.

“Taking them out of house gives them a break from their brothers because they all clash so when they get to do something one-on-one, because we can’t always give them one-on-one time, that makes a big difference and also gives us a bit of a break as well.”

Mr Kenney said having that support close by would allow his boys to get out and actually be around people who’ve got similar sort of challenges.

“Their socialisation is one of their biggest issues – they all struggle at that social side so being able to meet up with people who have similar issues it just makes it easier on them,” he said.

Mr Kenney said having emergency support close by would also be a massive help when the boys behaviour escalates to a level where they didn’t know what to do.

BDS Support Services chief executive Barb van den Vlekkert said the program would be shaped by the families involved.

“We want to create important local connections so we can better understand the needs of families and tailor support for parents of children with a disability,” she said.

Other initiatives supported by the Merrifield Community Partnerships Program include a culturally diverse support group delivered by the Oorja Foundation, a walking program with DPV Health and a series of street barbecues as part of Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Connect 4 Wellbeing program.

Merrifield community development manager Tennille Bradley-Ow said the programs would enhance the community experience of the estate’s more than 3000 people.

Link to full article.