The right time to make a change

December 1, 2021

It’s hard to innovate in the middle of a pandemic.

But it might also be exactly the right time to rethink how the lives of people we support can be more creative, be more fulfilling and have more freedom.

The North Otago town of Oamaru has two IDEA Services day bases. One is located at Severn Street, just off State Highway 1, the main road through town. The other is 500 metres away at Ribble Street on the other side of the highway.

Both day bases are open for now, but following the recent IDEA Services National Services Review other options are being explored for both of them. 

Otago Area Manager Tanya Povey says the Severn Street day base also serves as the IDEA Services office, so any future space will need room to accommodate staff and offices. “It’s an awful building for a day base. It’s not fit for purpose, but it’s a great location.”

Tanya says families are worried about the change and the kinds of service that will be on offer in the future. “The family engagement meeting in Oamaru was very challenging, but robust and honest.”

She says one initiative from that meeting was a project to find a space that worked better for everyone, and Service Managers set up a focus group to define the things that people wanted to see. “We established a group made up of two people we support, two staff and two family representatives,” she says.

“It’s their community, their futures and they also have the understanding locally.”

The group wanted the space to be multifunctional, include outdoor space, and able to be used into the evenings and the weekends. That meant it had to have easy access for the community, regardless of whether the IDEA Services office was open. It would be able to host a range of other activities, from coffee drop-ins to art classes.

On top of that it needed to work for the new Kai + Konnect evening social and dinner group that was just getting underway in Oamaru when the country went into lockdown.

A suitable building has been found, and IDEA Services is now in negotiations with the owner through IHC’s property company Accessible Properties.

Tanya says the challenge for Oamaru, as it is for many communities outside the main centres, is that there are fewer things to do out of hours, especially opportunities for people with disabilities. She says the IHC North Otago Association has been supportive with funding for Kai + Konnect.

While the dinners have been kicked off by staff, it’s an opportunity for staff, the people we support and families to all be in a room together. The plan is that the people we support will become progressively involved in meal preparation, and this will serve as a way of making social connections while people build essential skills.

“The Association and the families can see that we are trying to do something different,” Tanya says.

As well, a fortnightly calendar is being put together and emailed out with the activities on offer from IDEA Services, and also those on offer in the community. Tanya says the aim has to be to deliver the right activities for the individuals. “We are saying, here are the programmes we run. Talk to us about what might work well for you and your loved one.”

IDEA Services in Manawatū/Rangitīkei has started a seasonal activity programme offering a range of activities, events and trips over a block of four to six weeks that any of the people we support can join.

“We were lucky enough to complete our winter programme before lockdown and people took trips to destinations ranging from Paraparaumu to Ōhakune to the Hawke’s Bay,” says Area Manager Karen Wilton. “At home in Manawatū, activities ranged from Daytona car racing and pool at the pub to Matariki celebrations and indoor cricket.”

Implementing programmes like this across the country has presented its own challenges as well as its successes.

In Tauranga, IDEA Services is cementing key community relationships, including participating in Good Neighbour. Through this, the people we support can contribute to the community through projects such as community gardens, delivering firewood and food rescue.

In another Tauranga initiative, an alliance with CCS Disability Action has resulted in several referrals, which have been successful in helping people to find work.

In Auckland and Northland, things have been made more complicated with longer lockdowns. According to Joan Cowan, IDEA Services’ Chief Operating Officer, technology has been crucial.

“During the first lockdown last year we were able to introduce WhatsApp to the homes of the people we support, so they could connect with their loved ones,” she says.

“This proved to be really successful and we have begun using Zoom as a way for groups of people to connect for activities like kapa haka.”

More recently we have begun rolling out Netflix, prioritising Northland and Auckland because of the lockdown.

Joan says it has been very important for each community around the country to develop its own plan.

“We weren’t happy with the existing model and knew it was time for a change,” she says. “We know people are keen for us to hit the ground running, and we’re now at the stage where we’re seeing these programmes introduced,” she says. The extensive consultation and review period enabled IDEA Services to learn what people wanted from services – and mostly it was about disabled people being able to better connect with their communities.

The national team has been creating and distributing weekly activity calendars with a range of activities that people can undertake at home and out in the community.

Joan says she’s seeing the benefits already, with more variety and purposeful activities.

“More flexibility and control during the day is what people have told us they want, and we’re starting to deliver that,” says Joan. “It’s not about getting up and out of the door to head to a day base every morning, but to have a range of activities in the community throughout the week – from yoga and music therapy to movies and walks in the park, or just sharing a cup of tea with a friend online.”

Caption 1: Stephen Stewart lines up the car of his choice at the Southward Car Museum in Paraparaumu.

Caption 2: A trip for people we support in Manawatū/ Rangitīkei to Ōhakune and the snow (from left to right) Hannah Janes, Tony Church, Barbara Price, Aron Rastrick, John Tawa, Antoni Brown and Cora-lee McKenna.