By Melissa Keogh
The rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in South Australia will give clients more choice and control over their own lives, says disability organisation Bedford Group’s new CEO Maggie Dowling.
Maggie has only been in the top job for six weeks but says the longstanding SA organisation and some of its participants are already benefiting from the scheme as it continues to roll out in 2018.
“The NDIS is very much based on client choice, therefore people with a disability have a choice on what they would like to do with respect to making their lives better,” Maggie says.
“What it opens up for Bedford is that we offer more services that will help people reach their goals.
“We have the opportunity … to build people’s quality of their life with things like computer skills, cooking or social programs.”
Maggie says Bedford’s workforce is also expected to experience “absolute growth” as it prepares to help clients make the transition to the biggest social reform since Medicare.
She says Bedford has already bumped up its workforce in the past year.
“We have put at least 20 people on to help run the business in the last 12 months and we anticipate that to continue,” she says.
Bedford was established in SA 65 years ago and employs 340 direct staff at 19 sites across metropolitan and regional areas.
These staff run the business which also employs and supports about 1400 people with disabilities through employment, social programs, education and day-to-day activities.
Bedford also has expanding operations in Victoria and NSW.
Aside from providing programs for residential support and social activities, Bedford runs businesses that provide employment for people with disabilities.
“We offer employment in the manufacturing of timber products, flat packing furniture, garden maintenance and landscaping … we have major contracts with developers like AV Jennings, the City of Salisbury and the City of Onkaparinga,” Maggie says.
The NDIS was first rolled out to children with disabilities before it grew to include those aged 18–64 in July, 2017.
It is set to support more than 32,000 South Australians living with a disability and is expected to double the disability sector’s workforce to 12,550 by 2019.
NDIS participants will receive a funding package tailored to their needs, allowing them a greater choice of service providers.
“Part of the economic stimulus of the NDIS is related to workers like carers, planners, case managers and all other allied health services that will be driven by there being more money in the sector,” Maggie says.
“It’s early days, but we’re seeing families with plans now that have good amounts of funding to enable their loved ones to have greater choice (with service providers).”
Bedford primarily supports people with intellectual disabilities, such as Down syndrome, helping them to live and work independently as possible.
“If it weren’t for organisations like Bedford, people with disabilities would be staying home without meaningful work,” Maggie says.
“Having an equal right to life has a massive social and economic benefit, for sure.”
Maggie came to the not-for-profit and disability sector after a career spent in the private sector, and in state and local governments.
“SA is a great place to live and work,” she says.
“Although people say it’s small, sometimes that’s beneficial because when you work in the circles within SA you know each other quite well.
“I think that helps the collaboration aspect in making businesses work well.”
Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.